VETTE’S VEGAS VOICE: Insecurity in a new American economy
BY YVETTE WILLIAMS
America’s working class is feeling the squeeze in this new economy. People are trying to make ends meet by working longer hours, and it has taken a terrible toll on families and children. With parents often underemployed and working two or three part-time jobs just to pay the bills, the deck often seems stacked — and not in our favor.
The wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled over the last quarter-century, due largely to inequality in homeownership, income, education and inheritances, according to a study by Brandeis University. Researchers followed 1,700 families over 25 years and found that the typical white household in the U.S. accumulated wealth on average of $236,500 in net worth in 2009, compared to $28,500 for black families.
In Nevada, where black unemployment is almost double that of whites and Hispanics, home ownership is a large factor. Price appreciation is more limited in non-white neighborhoods, making it harder for blacks to build equity. Black families typically lack family financial assistance for down payments and purchase homes, on average, eight years later than white homeowners. Additionally, strapped with high interest rate student loans, four in five black students graduate with high debt, compared to 64% of whites, making it more difficult for them to begin accumulating wealth. On top of that, whites are five times more likely to inherit money than blacks, and that inheritance is typically ten times larger.
There will be wider ramifications unless Nevada and America deal aggressively with the growing wealth gap. Thomas Shapiro, Director, Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, cautions, “If the pattern continues, people could start believing the deck is stacked against them. Our economy cannot sustain its growth in the face of this type of extreme wealth inequality.”
To discuss this issue, the Clark County Black Caucus and Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison recently co-hosted the African American Job Summit in Las Vegas, bringing together a coalition of public agencies, business and community leaders, advocates, and elected officials. Nevada’s chief economist, Bill Anderson, provided a report identifying disparities that affect African-Americans in Nevada, and employment sectors where opportunities may improve future outcomes. For more information about this event, or future opportunities to participate in this discussion, please visit www.CCBlackCaucus.com or email Yvette Williams at ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com.
During this election season, we must review the public record of those representing us — and determine whether they are, in fact, serving our interests. To better ensure sensitivity to neighborhood needs, it is important to encourage people in our own communities to consider seeking public office. Our future depends on who you choose at the ballot box. As we begin to vet candidates and evaluate their records, I hope you’ll consider using the CCBC Legislative Scorecard, set to appear in next month’s publication, to help you make an informed decision.
Yvette Williams is founder of the Clark County Black Caucus. Read her blog at www.YvetteBWilliams.com, follow her on Twitter @YvetteBWilliams, and send email to ClarkCountyBlackCaucus@gmail.com.