March 11, 2013

NYT Op-ed Writer Falsely Asserts That White-Black Wealth Gap Has Increased in Past Two Decades

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:44 pm

In a New York Times op-ed which has been receiving deserved criticism from other quarters concerning other matters (e.g., here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates (“The Good, Racist People”) repeated one of those establishment press-induced “everybody knows” mantras which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny after considering the available evidence: “New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.” In Coates’s fevered mind, it’s largely due to racism.

In national context, the white-black wealth gap in the two decades since 1993 is not yet known, but at least through 17 years, it has narrowed significiantly — for reasons that aren’t good news.

Note that the table below, developed from available Census Bureau information, is mostly expressed in current dollars. With that mind, given the roughly 62% increase in prices from January 1993 to January 2013, what’s clear is that the gap has really narrowed, and it’s because median net worth has gone down in real terms for both blacks and whites:


Since roughly 2001, the Census Bureau has had a category for “White Non-Hispanice” which shows greater net worth than that seen above. But since twenty years of information is not available, there is now way to infer what those changes have been. Based on the data for the past 10 years, the gap between “White Non-Hispanics” and blacks would also have narrowed if data rom 1993 had been available.

What the data going back to the early 1990s also show is that the wealth gap expressed as a black vs. white multiple has gone down when the economy prospered and has increased when it hasn’t.

It’s also worth observing, as seen above that there has been a serious drop in real net worth all the way around since 2005. In a truly remarkable coincidence (/sarc), Democrats took over Congress in January 2007 and the White House in 2009, largely based on expressed desires for more “fairness.”

In reality, all we’ve seen is more non-discriminating misery. Unfortunately, Mr. Coates doesn’t understand that. I would think that decades of biased press reporting about supposedly relentlessly advancing inequality has been a major deceiving influence.

And no, Mr. Coates, it’s not redlining, and it’s not blockbusting — but government-engineered “urban renewal” definitely deserves a share of the blame.

Cross-posted at


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