Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1% Widens the Racial Wealth Divide

By Institute for Policy Studies, January 15, 2019.

The release date of this report would have been the 90th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King. He envisioned a future in which deep racial inequalities were eradicated and he worked tirelessly towards that mission. Just as racial economic inequality is the foundation of racial inequality, similarly the racial wealth divide is the foundation of racial economic inequality. For this reason, our report focuses on the racial dimensions of wealth inequality in America

Wealth is a critical measure of financial security because it buffers families from the ups and downs of income changes and economic cycles and allows households to take advantage of socio-economic opportunities. This report highlights how historic racial wealth disparities have been perpetuated and increased by the trend towards extreme inequality in the United States. It also puts the racial wealth divide in the context of overall wealth inequality trends.

Dreams Deferred presents a snapshot of the racial wealth divide in the United States today, looking at the current state of household wealth, income, homeownership, debt, and other economic factors. It also reviews long-term trends that led to this current moment, as well as, the historical policies and contributors to this deepening divide. Finally, we shift our focus to solutions to address this growing divide with an eye towards bold, paradigm shifting ideas and policies.


  • Between 1983 and 2016, the median Black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after inflation, compared to a 33% increase for the median White household. Meanwhile, the number of households with $10 million or more skyrocketed by 856%

  • The median Black family today owns $3,600 — just 2% of the wealth of the median White family. The median Latino family owns $6,600 — just 4% of the median White family.

  • At this rate, by 2050, median White wealth will be $174,000, while Latino wealth will be $8,600 and Black median wealth will be $600. Black family wealth is on track to reach zero wealth by 2082.