Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published a study indicating that millennial wealth was about 11% below expectations, an improvement over 2018 when that number was 34%. But the prospects for Black millennials in particular are much more dire, as NPR reported this week.
As NPR highlighted, the ratio of wealth for your typical white millennial family versus Black: $88,000 to $5,000. Looking at generational wealth factors, “Black millennials trail previous generations of Black Americans by 52%.” New America emphasized this issue in their report on the millennial racial wealth gap, which also explored the historical legacies of Black-White wealth inequality. This is especially bleak for Black men as one study found that “most white boys raised in wealthy families will stay rich or upper middle class as adults, but black boys raised in similarly rich households will not.”
Millennials get a bad rap—they’re stereotyped as lazy, unprepared, and lacking aspiration. Regrettably, these preconceived notions are often used to place blame on this “lost” generation for any deficiencies. What’s less talked about are the overwhelming challenges millennials have faced during their life span, including two recessions, insurmountable student loan debt, rising inequality, and a global pandemic.
Ending wealth disparities is not simply an economic solution that would solely benefit Black millennials. Last September, Bloomberg reported that “if the U.S. could instantly end the most severe forms of economic discrimination against African Americans, it could give a $5 trillion boost to gross domestic product over the next five years.”
“What’s less talked about are the overwhelming challenges millennials have faced during their life span, including two recessions, insurmountable student loan debt, rising inequality, and a global pandemic.”
Unfortunately, the likelihood of this occurring is extremely low, given the historical legacy and treatment of Blacks and the current racial climate in this country.
In December of 2019, Russell Ledet tweeted a photo of himself and his fellow Black medical school classmates standing in front of a former slave cabin on a Louisiana plantation accompanied by the words, “We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.” While Black millennials have made incredible strides from their ancestors’ days of being enslaved, this data clearly shows that Black millennials are lagging far behind their white peers and Black predecessors with respect to generational wealth, which is one of the stalwarts of the American Dream.
Alas, this “dream” is not colorblind, and it’s in danger of completely eroding for Black millennials if these trends continue.