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Bostonians are very familiar with a bracing data point: in 2015, the median net worth for White households in Greater Boston was about $250,000, but just $8 for Black households. The story behind that study was complicated, but the spirit remains unpleasantly on point.
Systemic wealth gaps persist. The average household wealth of a White high school dropout is higher than the average household wealth of a Black college graduate. A 2021 Federal Reserve report considering a world in which racial inequality did not exist estimated that Black households would hold five times more wealth in that world than they do now.
Are radical measures necessary to close the gap? Who should be tasked with the job? On the final day of the NAACP national convention, held in Boston for the first time in 40 years, state and Black business leaders tried to get their arms around those questions.
“The first thing we have to do, it seems to be, is to stop accepting that this is just the way it is, that it can’t be changed,” said former governor Deval Patrick in introducing a “Closing the Black Wealth Gap” panel. “Every single policy and personnel decision – from sanctioning human bondage to redlining and credit discrimination, to this hiring and promoting the same folks who went to the same Ivy League schools you did – all of these decisions are decisions we as a society have made, and they are not beyond our capacity to care about and to change.”