In Melissa Harris-Perry’s first night sitting in for Rachel Maddow, she educated viewers about the seemingly irrepressible wealth gap between white and minority households in the U.S.:
Harris-Perry makes an important point – duh, that’s what she always does – when she reminds us that local and federal governments have encouraged this gap through priorities and public policy. Like housing. Particularly through subjective but oh-so-critical practices such as redlining, lending and property appraisals.
When real estate professionals talk about “location, location, location” as being critical to property value, it’s important to remember how and why some areas gain, retain and lose their value. Neighborhoods don’t become “good” and “bad” all by their lonesome.
And with so much of minority wealth tied up in homes, it’s not hard to see how the wealth gap was exacerbated by the housing crisis.
Taking a broader view, Kai Wright at Racewire explains the implications of this enduring wealth gap:
So things are right now growing dire in communities of color–with home wealth evaporating, joblessness lingering and wages falling, people have never been more vulnerable to predation. That’s a problem for people of color, yes, but it’s also a problem for the entire economy. After all, we already know what happens when we leave huge segments of our economy open to predatory credit–see under: subprime mortgages and global economic collapse. And with blacks and Latinos already accounting for roughly a third of the people whose labor and spending create the economy–a share that will increase dramatically in the next generation–this sort of deep inequality is simply untenable.
Which means today’s Pew study is more of a benchmark than a final tally of the damage done in the past decade. Unless Washington intervenes to get people living-wage jobs and stop banks from preying on their wages with deceptive products, these numbers will grow more dramatic. That’s a problem for everyone.
Of course, the problem with that problem is convincing everyone that it’s worth solving.