The racial wealth divide is worse than people think—and it’s growing

Lenny Clay outside his barbershop in Baltimore. In 1961, when Clay opened his shop, the neighborhood was busy, bright, full of hard-working black families and black-owned businesses. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

Lenny Clay outside his barbershop in Baltimore. In 1961, when Clay opened his shop, the neighborhood was busy, bright, full of hard-working black families and black-owned businesses. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

Wealthy white households control the vast majority of the nation’s economic resources, and they appear to have no idea how the rest of society lives.

It’s pleasant to think history is marching towards a more fair and equitable society. Things might be a bit rough around the edges right now, but there’s progress, the story goes.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the deep racial wealth divide in the United States, the numbers just don’t back this up. Rather than closing, if we don’t take steps to change the course we’re on, that gap could go on growing forever.

A pair of recent research papers bears this story out.

The first comes from a group of Yale psychologists who looked at public misperceptions around racial economic equality. The researchers looked at black and white populations from low-income and high-income households alike and compared their assessments of racial economic equity.

The researchers found that both racial groups got the numbers very wrong, vastly overestimating progress in closing the racial economic divide. Wealthy white respondents, perhaps predictably, were the most off in their assessment, overestimating a typical black family’s household income more than 30%.

I co-authored a recent study with a colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies and our allies at Prosperity Now that did.

We looked at the growing racial economic divide as it relates to wealth, and specifically its significant implications for the American middle class. Our study found the racial wealth divide is significantly larger than the income gap—and worse, the racial wealth divide is on track to keep getting bigger.

We looked at how race, education, and income correlate with middle class wealth status, which we defined as owning between $68,000 and $204,000—between two-thirds to double the white median household.

We found that black and Latino families in the middle would need to earn between 2 and 3 times as much as white families in order to enter the middle class. By our count, roughly 70% of black and Latino households would fall below the $68,000 threshold needed for middle-class status, compared to only about 40% of white households.

Further, only black and Latino households with an advanced degree have enough wealth to be considered middle class, whereas the average white household with a high school diploma or higher would be considered middle class.

We also looked at the past three decades of racial wealth data to develop an idea of what the future will look like if current trends continue. The findings were bleak. The median black family, who today only owns $1,700 in wealth excluding their car, will reach zero wealth by 2053. That’s just 10 years after the country is projected to become majority non-white.

Median white families, by contrast, have $116,000 in wealth, and that number is actually going up.

So the research is clear: Wealthy white households control the vast majority of the nation’s economic resources, and they appear to have no idea how the rest of society lives. That’s a problem.

Click here for more.

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Turn City Youth Into Artists

Art by Lajachanae Minter of East English Village Preparatory Academy is on display.  Rachel Woolf, Special to the Free Press

Art by Lajachanae Minter of East English Village Preparatory Academy is on display.  Rachel Woolf, Special to the Free Press

Kenneth Holloway never saw himself as an artist. But then his teacher, Gloria Byers, challenged him to create a piece of artwork using corrugated cardboard, a selfie, pastel chalk and other materials.

The result: A colorful self-portrait using mixed media that was so good, it was selected to be on display during the Detroit Public School Community District Student Exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

"It feels good to let people see my work, to see that it means something," said Holloway, 17, a senior at Osborn College Preparatory Academy.

His artwork is one of hundreds of pieces on exhibit beginning Saturday at the DIA, an annual display that gives students a unique opportunity to showcase their talent.

It's the 80th such exhibition at the museum, and is the longest-running partnership the DIA has with an educational organization. The Detroit Public Schools Foundation and the Ruth T.T. Cattell Education Endowment Fund funded the exhibition.

Follow the link for more photos and additional info.

Worcester MA Arts program offers troubled youth a chance at creativity

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

Juvenile Probation Officer Fiona Bycroft-Ryder stands in front of Arts Alternative, an exhibit featuring the work by young people in the juvenile court in the Worcester Trial Court lobby. Photo by Christine Hochkeppel.

The paintings, drawings and sculptures on display last week in the Worcester Trial Court lobby reflected a wide range of artistic abilities, but the young artists who created them all had one thing in common.

Each has had some involvement with the Worcester County Juvenile Court and each was referred by a judge or probation officer to Arts Alternative, a collaborative effort of the juvenile court and the Worcester Art Museum.

The idea behind the program, now in its fifth year, is to offer troubled youths, from truants and runaways to those deemed delinquent by reason of criminal activity, an introduction to art as a means of positive development and as an option to violence, substance abuse and other negative behavior, according to Fiona Bycroft-Ryder, a juvenile court probation officer.

Participants, ranging in age from 9 to 18, meet once a month at the Worcester Art Museum, where volunteer docent Ginny B. Powell-Brasier takes them on a guided tour and talks with them about specific works of art that are part of the museum’s collection. Then they spend about 90 minutes in a studio with an art instructor doing hands-on activities.

The works of art that result are eventually displayed in a community setting, like the art museum or the courthouse. Most of the participants, many of whom come from low-income or unstable environments, had never been to the art museum before becoming involved in the program, according to Ms. Bycroft-Ryder.

“But what’s nice is we find some young people keep coming to the program even when they’re no longer on probation. Sometimes they’ll bring a friend of a family member,” she said.

The museum has offered scholarships in the past to participants who “have shown artistic talent and want to get more out of it,” Ms. Bycroft-Ryder said.

An exhibit of the participants’ creative efforts was on display last Thursday in the first-floor lobby of the Worcester Trial Court at 225 Main St. Some of the artwork is expected to remain there through the end of this week. The works included paintings, pastels, pencil drawings, clay sculptures, collages and murals.

About 40 people attended the April 20 reception.

Follow the link for the full article.

Photos from our #Artivism workshop at Validus Prep

We were once again invited by Validus Prep in the Bronx to conduct an Artivist workshop. Validus Preparatory Academy in the Bronx is one of a number of city schools using restorative justice practices like student justice panels that are meant to provide useful alternatives to punitive discipline. 

Check out some of the creations from the workshop!


Would you like to host one of our Artivism workshops at your school or non-profit? We would love to hear from you! Contact us!

Since 2011, Project Attica has brought Artivism – a free, dynamic, visual art, interactive workshop to students in New York City. Held in middle schools, high schools and community organizations in the city, Artivism provides students with a space to create works of art by expressing their views about social justice issues on wearable canvases. 

Photos from our #Artivism Workshop in Chiapas, Mexico

Project Attica recently established partnerships with local organizations in Chiapas, Mexico. In January 2017, Project Attica conducted Artivism workshops in the community and contribute in the work to maintain indigenous cultural heritage in the face of growing violence and opposition. 

Check out photos from our workshop in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.


Would you like to host one of our Artivism workshops at your school or non-profit? We would love to hear from you! Contact us!

Since 2011, Project Attica has brought Artivism – a free, dynamic, visual art, interactive workshop to students in New York City. Held in middle schools, high schools and community organizations in the city, Artivism provides students with a space to create works of art by expressing their views about social justice issues on wearable canvases.