Why the widening wealth gap is no big surprise to Chicago

Why the widening wealth gap is no big surprise to Chicago

Big and terrible news yesterday: the wealth gap between white people and minorities is widening. It was already wide - enormous, in fact. But it's gotten worse.

Take a look at the graph at the top. Every group has taken a hit since 2005 because of the recession. But the net worth of Hispanic and black households has been more than cut in half - from $18,359 to $6,325 for Hispanics and from $12,124 to $5,677 for black families. Meanwhile, the incomes of white people have dropped about 16%.

The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times larger than Hispanic households.

Not that we don't appreciate landmark research like this from the Pew Research Center, but we've been talking about this for awhile when it comes to our city. A few months ago, our publisher and data-whiz, Alden Loury, whipped up some pretty shocking statistics about the gap between minorities and white people in Chicago. Our five part series, Second City or Dead Last?, revealed some pretty glaring inequalities between racial groups here:

- The average black person in Chicago makes 45 cents for every dollar a white person makes.

- Chicago has the third highest poverty rate of the 10 largest cities in America, and the highest black poverty rate, with one of three black citizens living in poverty. We also have the highest racial disparity when we compare poverty between white and black people.

- In Chicago, more white people have graduate degrees than African Americans have associates degrees. Chicago is the only one of the 10 largest cities where this is true. The percentage of Latinos who have a high school diploma is just slightly higher than the percentage of white people with a bachelors degree.

- Out of the largest U.S. cities, Chicago is number one when it comes to the unemployment rate for African Americans. That's more than two and a half times the average for white people living in the same 10 cities. Chicago came in third highest for Latino poverty, with Phoenix beating us by only one-tenth of one percent.

- Among African Americans in Chicago, 56 percent of the population is out of the labor force. That means that 1 in 2 people do not go to work. Among Latinos, the number is 2 in 5.

So while the Pew data is surprising and upsetting, at the Chicago Reporter, we've seen this one coming for awhile. While Republicans and Democrats argue over the debt ceiling and the deficit, which left unattended, some economists say could plunge us into another recession, black and Latino families are still struggling to recover from the first recession. And even before that, they were way behind.

Photo credit: malias

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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