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Structural racism and intergenerational transfers

Racism is highly entrenched in our society. It impacts work (Wilson, 2011), income, housing, education, employment (Pager, 2007), incarceration (Hattery & Smith, 2018), health, and especially wealth (Hamilton & Darity, 2010). These factors affect not only African Americans, they affect all Americans; but the impact of these factors is far more damaging to black families. According to Darity (2016, 2005), the wealth gap is the foremost indicator of the well-being of families and individuals. A distinction should be made between income and wealth: income is determined by earnings while wealth, in comparison, is the most significant dimension of economic well-being. Higher wealth provides better education, debt-free education, and the capacity to participate in the political process, to live in safe neighborhoods, and in comfort in old age. Stratification economists argue that parental wealth determines future wealth. Intergeneration transmission impacts wealth in significant ways and serves as a viable tool for analyzing economic and social problems (Darity, 2016, 2005), providing another way of framing an issue, and is important in understanding how to analyze social problems.

The new racism

The concept of “new racism” helps in understanding discrimination against African Americans in the housing and the lending markets. In spite of the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement and policies intended to bridge the inequality gap, African Americans and Whites still remain separate and unequal in most areas of social and economic life. This is what Bonilla-Silva (2015) refers to as the “new racism”; this is basically the same as the “old racism,” or simply another way of perpetuating discrimination. With respect to present-day housing and residential segregation, there has been little or no change in comparison to past practices (Massey & Denton, 1993). Some of the segregation is not captured by the contemporary measuring instruments that are used (Bonilla-Silva & Baiocchi, 2008). The discriminatory practices of American society when segregation was legal (Jim Crow era) are not legal today (Picca & Feagin, 2007); however, segregation persists in the housing and the lending markets because of discrimination, which may often be hidden in the details and difficult to detect and measure. For example, African Americans and Hispanics experienced discrimination by being steered into segregated housing areas by realtors, receiving a disproportionate number of subprime loans, and being given different information from Whites about the availability of housing units. The concept of new racism is illustrated in all of these new forms of discrimination because they are difficult to detect and problematic to categorize as racism (Bonilla-Silva, 2015).

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