Why the disparities? Black and Hispanic graduates have far more debt and less family income than whites and Asians. And when the value of someone’s assets, like a house, begins to fall, having debt exacerbates the damage to his or her net worth. During the recession, Black and Hispanic college graduates saw their home values decline by far more than White bachelor’s degree holders. That, combined with their large debts, dealt a body blow to their finances.
It’s especially interesting to look at Black households in this instance, because of the role of student loan debt. Since their families often don’t have much in the way of assets—for that, we can partly thank decades of racist housing practices like red-lining—Black students tend to borrow heavily for college. Today, Black Americans are both more likely to have student loans than Whites and owe more on average, even though they go to college in lower numbers. For them, the cost of a degree has made it less of a financial bulwark when the economy goes bad.