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Institute for Policy Studies

Wealth of 400 Billionaires = Wealth of All 41 Million African-Americans

The Dizzying Racial Wealth Divide

MLKs Nightmare

The billionaires that make up the “Forbes 400” list have as much wealth as the entire African-American population of the U.S., over 41 million people, according to a new analysis by Bob Lord of the Institute for Policy Studies. Lord calls it “Dr. King’s Nightmare.”

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, wealth owned by households of color declined dramatically, as home values collapsed. The wealth of the richest 1 percent also declined in 2009, but rebounded quickly in subsequent years.

As Bob Lord writes in Other Words, “The net worth of just 400 billionaires, a group that could fit into a high school gym, is on par with the collective wealth of more than 14 million African- American households. Both groups possess some $2 trillion, about three percent of our national net worth of $77 trillion.”

The only U.S. African-American on the Forbes 400 list is Oprah Winfrey, who has a net worth of $2.9 billion, placing her 184th on the list. She is one of 7 Black billionaires in the whole world.

The U.S. has a persistent racial wealth divide, rooted in the legacy of discrimination in asset building, starting with slavery up to present day discrimination in mortgage lending.  The homeownership rate for whites is 73.3 percent, 43.1 percent for African-Americans, and 47.6 percent for Latinos.

But present-day inequality is the poisonous result of eroding net worth among African-American and Latino households and an exploding concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent, and within that, among the richest 400 billionaires.  The average net worth of the Forbes 400 richest rose $800 million to a record $5 billion in the last year.

African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but have only 2.7 percent of total wealth.  The median wealth for an African American household, according to a 2010 survey, is $4,900; for whites, it is $97,000.

If current trends continue, the Forbes 400 will soon have as much wealth as the entire Latino population of over 53 million people, 17 percent of the U.S. population.

  • cyncobalt

    And the wealth gap has increased under Pres. Obama, as well as the unemployment rate of African Americans. So who are you blaming?

    • Sierra

      Just because the President is Black doesn’t mean he doesn’t engage in anti-black policies.

      • Blake

        obama is the worse president in history

  • Chaddington

    41 million African Americans have the same wealth (2trillion) as 1.2 billion Indians (GDP 2 trillion). What’s your point?

    • Blake

      the majority of black wealth is actually tax payer money since they are freeloaders

  • Intaglio Oglothorpe

    The richest person in Africa is black and the current richest man in the world is a Mexican. Sounds racist to me.

  • Rupert_Murdoch68

    I don’t know what this jacka$$’s point is but to demean minorities because:

    Those same 400 Americans have more wealth than half of ALL Americans combined.
    “Let me say that again. 400 obscenely wealthy individuals, little
    Mubaraks, who have benefited in some way from the multitrillion dollar
    taxpayer bailout of 2008, now have more cash, stock and property than the combined assets of 155 million Americans, not just the 41 million Afro-Americans. So Collins, you racist piece of crap, take your column and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, and take your family with you.

  • Intaglio Oglothorpe

    The top 1%:
    America’s richest Indian tribe has 99.2 per cent unemployment — and it’s all voluntary, tribal leaders boast. There’s little need for any member of theShakopee Mdewakanton Tribe to work. Each adult in the 460-person American Indian nation receives more than $1million a year – for doing nothing.
    And I believe that rather than reparations tax policies should let them keep and spend every dime of that. Blacks should learn how to run a casino.

  • Orlando coombs

    1percent of the population controls 96 percent of the wealth. That’s the real wealth gap. And its centuries in the making. Even most whites won’t unlock that wealth. Just get ya own wealth and it’s all good.

  • g2879

    The country needs ditch diggers too

  • [email protected]

    you could easily find 41 million white people that have less net worth than the 400 billionaires, and could probably pick a different 41 million whites and come up with same equation, and then do it again. that time of wealth is rare. but everyone in america has an equal opportunity to go get their’s. its up to the individual, you can get a 1000 and spend it on a new cell phone , a pair of jordans, or you can use to put yourself in a better position its up to you, you have to start somewhere and quit blaming others for them having more.

  • Gordon

    Your an idiot Chuck! What a lame comparison! Everything is racism! How easy it must be to get a job as a “Journalist”. I actually work for a living.

  • Apolo Kaggwa.

    Don’t forget that the Forbes 400 would not have been possible without the free labour of African slaves. Slavery was abolished by President Lincoln in 1863, but was followed by racial discrimination until recently, which means that African-Americans have not had enough time to accumulate wealth in the last 300 years, but that will change once they have enough capital to run their own companies like the Forbes 400 do today.

    • Blake

      get over it, blacks have every opportunity today, stop quoting garbage from 100’s of years ago that has no relevance today. had there never been slavery, blacks would still be poor because they are lazy, stupid and violent; like monkeys

  • Blake

    The reason there are not many black billionaires is because blacks are stupid and lazy. Just compare africa and Europe. Why is one so affluent and prosperous and the other is a garbage hole? is it a coincidence? is Europe older than africa? is there “white privilege” in Europe?

Read previous post:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we need to remember, worried deeply about America's overall distribution of wealth and income.
Dr. King’s Nightmare: Our Top-Heavy America

A half-century since Dr. King's dream, we're living through a nightmare where America's 400 richest now hold as much wealth...