The New York Times recently wrote about the economic challenges of black residents of Memphis, Tenn. In the piece, the author describes how the recent recession, creating a double whammy of high unemployment and foreclosure, has created an unprecedented amount of financial hardship for African-American residents in the city. The median income of black Memphis residents rose steadily until about five years ago. Since that time, it has dropped to levels not seen since 1990 and remains at half the median income of white Memphis residents.
Black unemployment in Memphis, which is at 16.9 percent, is more than three times greater than white unemployment, which is at 5.3 percent. The problems being faced by Memphis residents are part of a larger national trend, in which the wealth gap between blacks and whites has increased over the past several decades. The Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University recently released a study stating that the wealth gap between blacks and whites has grown fivefold since 1984. Additionally, a Federal Reserve study states that for every dollar of wealth possessed by white families, a black or Latino family has only 16 cents.
There is more evidence of African American suffering during the recession. The Economic Policy Institute recently found that during the 2009 recession, black family wealth dropped by more than twice as much as white family wealth. The median white family has $94,600 in wealth, while the median black family has just $2,100.
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