Over the last few years, the conversation amongst Black millennials regarding finance has changed tremendously, mostly centering around the goal of attaining generational wealth. The question which most pose is where do we currently stand in growing wealth as of today?
The facts are older millennials (those born in the early 80s), in general, have been faring a bit better financially in the last five years than in previous years. In 2016, they had $28,000 in wealth which was 40% below previous generations, and now they have an average of $51,000 in wealth, which is comparatively only 11% lower.
Also of positive note, while housing prices are the highest that they’ve been in a while, millennials are buying homes around the same age as their parents and grandparents initially did. Home equity plays a large role in building wealth and if prices continue to increase, we will see that reflected in their net wealth.
However, when we dive deeper into other millennial financial stats, we actually see a disparity in the wealth gap between Blacks and whites. According to the Urban Institute, when reviewing first time homebuyer data, only 53% of African Americans under the age of 35 buy homes compared to 87% of their Caucasian counterparts. This difference in early home ownership for African Americans plays a huge role in wealth building because over time they will have less home equity as they get closer to retirement age than whites.
And, not only are we buying our first home at a later stage in our life, but we also owe more money on it as well. African Americans tend to buy less expensive first homes but carry a greater debt overall than first time white buyers. The average home value for African Americans is $126,609 compared to $139,415 for whites. But, the debt load comparatively is $90,436 for Blacks while it is only $74,736 for whites.
However, the inequities do not just end there. Income is the most important driver of wealth and plays a huge role in our ability to attain it. The lack of access to consistent income from work during a time when it’s most needed really set Black millennials back. During the pandemic African Americans held unemployment rates of over 10% in 16 of the 22 states, where unemployment rates for Black workers were available. More specifically, in Washington D.C., Black Americans were 4.5 times more likely to be unemployed during the pandemic than whites. And for those who are employed, the income disparity is still disquieting. When comparing household income, young Black households tend to earn $37,300 per year compared to their white counterparts, who earn approximately $60,800.
The thing about household income is that it is the combined gross income of all members of a household above a specific age (usually 18). Lower household incomes tends to contribute to lower wealth, as well as the opportunity to gain wealth. And, it is most likely what factors into such a huge gap in household income between the races. Approximately, 46% of Black millennials live in a family unit of their own with either a spouse and/or child, while 57% of whites do so. In addition, 22% of African American millennials are more likely to live with a child and no spouse; they are also less likely to be married (24%) in comparison to white millennials (48%).
Debt also plays a huge factor when it comes to wealth building. The carrying over of student debt is a significant burden for millennials, regardless of race or ethnic background. It’s also a large reason why they have attained less wealth than previous generations. When we factor in race, Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student debt than whites. Moreover, 48% of Black students owe 12.5% more than the initial amount that they actually borrowed because of usury interest rates. This results in higher monthly payments or an increase in student loan defaults.
The wealth gap between young African Americans and whites is abysmal, and clearly shows that things really haven’t changed when it comes to the segregation of race and economics in the United States. Consider this: the typical net worth of households of young Black Americans is a measly $3600 while for white millennials it is $35,000, which is ten times as much. So the next time someone tells you that things are getting better, your response should be… for who?