By Chris Adams
Wealth is key for families to navigate an economic emergency and to prepare for a secure retirement. But wealth inequality is high – even greater than income inequality. That leaves many households ill-prepared for the future.
Those are the conclusions of Christian Weller, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Weller is also senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center Washington think tank.
In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Weller discussed wealth inequality. Among his main findings: Wealth has become increasingly concentrated at the top, and the wealth gap by race and ethnicity is largest between whites and African-Americans, followed by the gap with Hispanics and with Asian-Americans.
Further, those gaps have widened since the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. Overall, African-Americans have one-tenth the wealth of whites.
Weller described wealth patterns in the country and also how researchers – and reporters – can analyze them. He gave a primer on the Survey of Consumer Finances, a major wealth-and-income research project conducted every three years by the Federal Reserve.
Key facts about the survey: Data are collected every three years, from 1989 to 2016. They show in detail household assets (broken down by homes, savings, retirement accounts, etc.) and debt.
Some of the drawbacks: The three-year intervals could miss large swings during market downturns. Further, the number of questions asked of recipients is massive, making many people shy away from participating. The survey also isn’t able to break out data for some smaller demographic groups, such as Asian-Americans.