Black Wealth: Richest 100 Americans Worth As Much As Total African American Population in U.S.

Scholar weighs in on income inequality between 1% and blacks

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The wealthiest 100 households on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans own about as much wealth as the entire U.S. African-American population. That’s the finding of a study by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), called Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of US.

[Related: Blacks in the U.S. Gaining Wealth and Education Faster Than Other Groups]

Among the Forbes 400, just two people are African American: Oprah Winfrey and Vista Equity Partners founder Robert Smith.

In addition, IPS researchers found that:

  • With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400— topped by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates —own more wealth than the bottom 61% of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
  • The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino, including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family.
  • The median American family has a net worth of $81,000. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 36 million of these typical American families; that’s as many households in the United States that own cats.

Researchers site two types of policy interventions that can help reduce the extreme wealth inequality in the U.S.  First, they suggest we close “escape routes,” such as offshore tax havens where the wealthy can hide their wealth and avoid things like taxation, saying hidden wealth now totals in the trillions. Second, they suggest that policies need to be implemented that reduce wealth and raise revenues by “seriously taxing our wealthiest households,” and reinvesting those funds into wealth-building initiatives.

“According to research across several academic disciplines, extreme inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity undermine democracy, social cohesion, economic stability, social mobility, and many other important aspects of our personal and public lives,” the study says.

BlackEnterprise.com spoke to Chuck Collins, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and director of the institute’s Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is an expert on U.S. inequality and author of several books, including 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It.  Collins, along with Josh Hoxie, who heads IPS’ Project on Opportunity and Taxation, authored the Billionaire Bonanza study.

Read Collins’ insights on the next page …

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