By Chris Adams
The U.S. stock market may be hitting all-time highs, but that doesn’t mean everybody in the United States is benefitting from it.
In fact, according to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings of Global Policy Solutions, huge swaths of the country don’t see a benefit because they don’t participate in what happens on Wall Street. Those Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and they not only lack the money to buy stocks and bonds but they don’t contribute to any kind of retirement plan.
In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Rockeymoore Cummings noted that 38 million working age households – 45 percent of the U.S. workforce – do not have retirement account savings of any kind (based on a 2013 study). And 57 percent of private-sector workers do not have access to a tax-preferred, employer-sponsored retirement savings plan of any kind, she said.
Rockeymoore Cummings (who four days before her NPF session joined a crowded Democratic field to be governor of Maryland) discussed how the lack of retirement vehicles and the shortfall in savings has a disproportionate impact on minority populations. The median wealth of white households is 16 times that of African-American households and 14 times that of Latino households.
With low to non-existent net worth, many African-American and Latino households are far more reliant on Social Security when they retire than are white ones; and the share of African-American and Latino households whose only source of retirement income is Social Security is double that of white households.
“The wealth disparity is absolutely rooted in the history of race relations in this country,” Rockeymoore Cummings told fellows. She also noted that even among the poorest Americans, the gaps in wealth are extreme: the poorest whites are far better off than the poorest African-Americans and the poorest Latinos.
“There’s a material difference in how poverty is experienced in this country by different groups,” she said.
Rockeymoore Cummings’ policy organization has studied the issue and produced “Beyond Broke: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is a Priority for National Economic Security.”