The State of America’s Wealthy Black People

Wealthy black people account for approximately 4% of the nation’s top-earning households and the wealth gap between them and the average black person is staggering.

The Federal Reserve’s survey, along with the Pew Research Center, reports there are around 120 million households in America, with 83 million white households and 14 million black households. There are 1.2 million households in the top 1% of net worth and over 96% are white (1,152,000).


Only 1.4% of them are black (16,800). The top white 1% households have a median net worth of $8.3 million, whereas the top black 1%, have a median net worth of $1.2 million. To be in the top 5%, a black household would need a net worth of $356,000.

So, out of 14 million black households, the top 1%-5% of black households represent less than 720,000 of black households.


Over-Representation of White Wealth


In contrast, white households with the same $356,000 in net worth of the top black 5%, represent nearly 30% of the 83 million population of white households in America, or nearly 25 million white households.

While $356,000 isn’t considered to be the “top 5%” among white households, whites with the same level of wealth have a much more staggering representation in the country (based on percentage ratio and actual quantity) in comparison to that of black households.

A black household in the top 5% has a median net worth compared to the average black family in America (per 2016) which comes in around $17,000 (compared to $171,000 for the average white family. In a nutshell, blacks in the top 1% have over 70 times more wealth than the average black family. The top 5% of African Americans have 20 times more wealth.


Habits of Millionaires: America’s Richest Blacks


The Harvard Business Review reports that the top wealthiest 5% of black Americans are more likely to invest in more “conservative” investments such as savings accounts, life insurance, CDs, and real estate, compared to their white counterparts who hold more assets in stocks, bonds, and business equity ownership, which provide higher rewards for taking on more risk.

The explanation for this is simple, as the vast majority of today’s wealthy black people are first-generation rich, with less than 7% benefiting from any sort of inheritance. This is compared to nearly 40% of their white counterparts, benefiting from inheritances that are on average 10 times larger than any inheritance that the black family likely received.