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Education Can Help Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap, but Structural Solutions Are Needed to Close It

Key Points:
Recent analysis shows the median wealth of Black college graduates has plunged
Education may help narrow the gap, but it is insufficient to close it
Black student debt is higher than white student debt at graduation, and the gap grows over time
Addressing the student debt crisis would help narrow the racial wealth gap
Structural solutions are needed to close the racial wealth divide

In the United States, the typical white family has nearly eight times the wealth of the typical Black family. Wealth serves as an enabler of opportunity, such that racial disparities in education, income, housing, retirement and other outcomes can be traced in part to the persistence of the racial wealth gap.  

Education has often been touted as the key to closing the racial wealth gap, but recent analysis shows that education alone is insufficient. Even as Black college graduation rates have increased, the net worth of Black college graduates in their 30s has dropped by $42,000 or 84 percent over the last three decades. A college education may help narrow the racial wealth gap, but the depth and persistence of the racial wealth divide in the United States means that addressing long-standing structural inequities in the economy will require a broad basket of policy solutions.

Federal policy has contributed to the chasm, via the absence of reparative justice for descendants of slaves, the exclusion of Black Americans from programs that promote asset accumulation, destructive infrastructure policies and practices that disadvantaged predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods and a tax code that favors white and wealthy Americans.

Read the full brief here