Color of Wealth

Income and wealth inequality in the United States, particularly across racial and ethnic groups, is enormous and persistent. While income is often used by researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers to describe local economic conditions and drive policy decisions, it is also increasingly recognized as an inadequate indicator of economic well-being, mobility, and security. 

Wealth is often thought of as an outcome, but its true essence is functional – what it can do for you. Wealth is generally less volatile than income, and it provides a store of resources that gives families security during emergencies and allows them to secure advantages that foster the well-being of the next generation.   

Wealth empowers individuals, families and communities with financial capacities to make consumption and investment decisions to enhance their wellbeing. For example, we know that wealthier families are better positioned to finance elite educations, access capital to start a business, pay for expensive medical procedures, reside in higher amenity neighborhoods, exert political influence; purchase better counsel if confronted with an expensive legal system, leave a bequest, and withstand many financial hardships resulting from any number of emergencies or shocks, including a global pandemic. 

Wealth is intergenerational and iterative, it compounds upon itself and grows exponentially both within and across generations; in essence wealth generates more wealth, and without access to capital, inequality across individuals, families and communities is locked-in. Wealthier families have greater financial resources to make transfers to offspring and to purchase assets that produce more wealth. 

Racial wealth inequities are rooted within histories of structural racism and state violence with profound structural intergenerational effects. The Color of Wealth studies examine historical forces, regional variations and local asset market and policy conditions, across and within racial and ethnic groups, migration and immigration patterns and measures racial wealth inequities, assets, and debts. 

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The Color of Wealth in Chicago

The Color of Wealth in Chicago study maps, measures, and visualizes the relative asset and debt positions of Black American, White, Puerto Rican and Mexican (born in the U.S.  and abroad) households, in the Chicago metropolitan area. Unlike its predecessors, this study was conducted towards the tempering of the COVID-19 pandemic (in its later period) and introduces new themes that examine the relationship between financial wealth positions to political sentiments, civic engagement, health, incarceration, and energy and housing (in)security. The report concludes with policy recommendations that seek to undermine economic, political, and social stratifications.

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The Color of Wealth in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Produced in partnership with Justice for Greenwood Foundation and the Christy Finsel (Osage) at the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, Inc with support from Ford Foundation’s Building Economic Security Over a Lifetime (BESOL) initiative.

The Color of Wealth Tulsa report examined the wealth position of Black American, Mexican, Native American, and White households residing in the Tulsa, Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area.  The findings presented in this report show that there is a clear racial, ethnic, and tribal pattern to assets, debts and wealth holdings in Tulsa. The report shows that White households have the highest asset holdings and often have some of the lowest burdens of debt. As a consequence, White households have the highest median net worth position in Tulsa. The report also shows that even though Native Americans have less wealth than White households, there are differences in wealth within the group. 

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The Color of Wealth in Miami

A joint publication of The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development

The Color of Wealth in Miami provided an ethnically plural context for comparative analysis, in that communities of color (specifically Black Americans, Afro-Caribbean groups and Latinxs communities) are in aggregate more populous compared to Whites (non-Latinxs). In terms of income, White household income tended to be higher than others, however, differences in wealth accumulation were much larger. The study found that asset inequality across racial and ethnic groups likely accounted for more of the racial wealth gap in Miami than debt. When disaggregating Miami Latinx communities by race, the study found that even among Latinx groups, race appeared to have some impact on socioeconomic outcomes. By comparison, ancestral origin played a much smaller role in determining socioeconomic outcomes when examining those who self-identify as racially Black. 

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The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles

A joint publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Duke University, The New School, the University of California, Los Angeles and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development

The Color of Wealth Los Angeles study includes asset and debt information on a number of disaggregated groups, thereby improving understanding of disparities in income and wealth. These groups include the following in Los Angeles: Mexicans, Latinos (including Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Central Americans, and Europeans), Asian Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese communities. Among African Americans, data are disaggregated by nativity—U.S. black descendants and recent immigrants from the African continent.

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The Color of Wealth in Boston

A joint publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Duke University, and The New School

The Color of Wealth Boston study focused on estimates for Black Americans, Caribbean Blacks, Cape Verdeans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area. The study revealed disparities in both financial and tangible assets that were striking. For example, there were extremely low homeownership rates among communities of color. With respect to debt, several key findings emerged from the study. Because households from communities of color often have higher-cost debt, have higher debt-to-income ratios, and are more likely to be denied credit, their ability to build assets is crippled and contributes to lower asset ownership and lower asset values when compared with White households.

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The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital (DC)

A joint publication of the Urban Institute, Duke University, The New School, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development

The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital (DC) report explored racial and ethnic differences in net worth, focusing on Black families in Washington, DC, and shows, through a chronicle of their history in the city, how discrimination and systemic racism have contributed to today’s wealth gap in the nation’s capital. The 2007–09 Great Recession and housing crisis erased approximately half of Black and Latino households’ wealth, while Asians suffered the largest absolute loss in wealth. Asian and Latino households tended to live in geographic areas that were hit hardest by the housing crisis.

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