Thursday, July 26, 2018

an Atlantic article on the black vs white inheritance gap is a reminder that another minority couldn't even legally have its own probate processes until as recently as 2004

The numbers are staggering: White Americans with a college degree are on average three times as wealthy as black Americans with the same credential, and in families where the head of the household is employed, white families have 10 times the wealth of black ones. One estimate on the conservative end suggested that this wealth gap could take two centuries to close.
And the thing about wealth, says Tatjana Meschede, a researcher at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, is that it’s “sticky”: It tends to stay with a family. That has serious repercussions for how much money people accumulate over the course of their lives, regardless of whether they attend college—something that is usually thought to make a significant difference financially.
A forthcoming study from Meschede and Joanna Taylor, also a researcher at Brandeis, in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, makes the point clearly. Building on a 2017 study of theirs that examined wealth accumulation among college graduates—as well as “intergenerational financial transfers,” like when a parent helps a recent college grad out with rent, or, say, gives her $1,000 a month to spend on whatever she pleases—the two looked specifically at how family inheritances, which are usually larger and tend to come all at once, factor into building and maintaining wealth.
The two researchers focused specifically on inheritances among families where at least one parent has a college degree. They looked at families like this in order to test the notion that higher education is some great equalizer.

and a no-prize goes to people who find the very idea dubious but ...

The differences that they found between black and white families were stark. “Among college-educated black families, about 13 percent get an inheritance of more than $10,000, as opposed to about 41 percent of white, college-educated families,” Taylor said in a release announcing the new research. More specifically, on average, white families that receive such an inheritance receive over $150,000 from the previous generation, whereas that figure is under $40,000 for black families.

Meschede and Taylor focused on inheritances of more than $10,000 because, they say, these qualify as “transformative” assets—meaning, they could significantly alter the course of a life. As Mark Huelsman, a policy analyst at Demos, an advocacy group, tweeted earlier this week after seeing Meschede and Taylor’s study, “the average family inheritance to a white college grad can pay off the average undergrad debt balance”—more than $30,000—“and have enough left over for a 20 percent down [payment] on a $575,000 home.” (And that’s if they have student debt to begin with.)

That head start on wealth provides lifelong momentum, Taylor told me in an interview. The median wealth held by black families with a college degree and student loans by the time the head of household is 65 years old, she said, is about $61,000, versus roughly $422,000 for white families under the same circumstances.

Getting a college degree can, in some cases, help close the income gap—as in, annual earnings—and, as I have written, can do wonders for socioeconomic mobility. But the enduring legacy of slavery, and centuries of de jure and de facto segregation have led to a wealth gap that is practically insurmountable. As my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in 2014, the wealth gap “puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution.”

There have been proposals, including systems of reparations such as baby bonds for black families that are scaled to family wealth, to get kids started on an equal level. Those ideas seem to be on the right track—a college degree alone certainly can’t make up the difference.

The topic of inheritance and racial inequality can be more broad-ranging than just whtie and black.  I am still not really convinced by Coates' arguments for reparations.  Adolph Reed's argument against Coates' argument seems too compelling to me. 

For that matter, as I've written in the past, making the issue of race as black and white or white and black as some contemporary journalists make it can produce more heat than light.

Merely giving non-whites education by itself may do nothing.  To flip the script a bit, and having skimmed through Richard Reeves book about "dream hoarders", if higher education is as racist in its legacies as some believe it is ... what if we abolish legacy admissions?

Just abolish legacy admissions across the board. Here's an ee
 To the Editor:
Re “U.S. Rights Unit Shifts to Study Antiwhite Bias” (front page, Aug. 2):

With the Justice Department moving to challenge affirmative action in college admissions, we would do well to be mindful of important ways in which existing class and financial status benefit certain college applicants, mostly those who are white.

The simple truth is that prosperous communities, good schools and savvy guidance counselors constitute affirmative action for whites.

There is also one deliberate and robust admissions policy used at many colleges that in effect constitutes white affirmative action: That is the preference given in admissions decisions to the children of alumni of the college.

In a previous life, I was an admissions officer at Princeton. That college and others like it openly acknowledged that there was a separate pool for so-called legacies. That remains true today.

Being a legacy was no guarantee of admission. All the legacies I saw admitted were notably successful high school students and were fully capable of succeeding at a demanding college. But a significant percentage of the class was reserved for these legacies. I would say 5 to 10 percent of the admitted students were legacies who would not otherwise have been admitted.
This legacy pool has been — and remains — overwhelmingly white. It will remain so for years until the race and ethnicity of college graduates more accurately reflect those of the overall population.
Today the Justice Department would have us believe that whites face reverse discrimination in college admissions. But legacy admissions are just one example of the ways in which the college-admission competition to this day tilts white.
Not everyone agrees, of course and some make the case that the upper middle class is not really hoarding the American dream by way of legacy admissions.
Is the upper middle class really hoarding the American Dream?
With a title like that you could work out that the answer is going to be "no" simply on the basis of a convention that indicates that rhetorical questions are the refuge of a particular flavor of combative editorializing.

.... Contrary to Reeves’s argument — but included in his book — is one study finding that among children born into the richest fifth, only 37 percent remained there as adults. Roughly two-thirds dropped out. How much more downward mobility does Reeves want? He doesn’t say.

Similarly, some advantages claimed for the upper middle class are weaker than advertised. Access to the best schools? Sure, but that doesn’t cover all upper-middle-class students. Reeves reports that nearly two-fifths of the richest 20 percent of families live near schools ranked in the top fifth of their states by test scores. But that means that about three-fifths of these wealthier families don’t. It’s also true, as Reeves notes, that the causation works in the other direction: Good students make good schools.

It's not really much of a case for not getting rid of legacy admissions to me.  Saying that we should expand the upper middle class rather than restrict it seems silly.  What we should try to do is recover some kind of economic viability for people who do not have and will never get a college degree.  The very idea of making American higher education as it has developed in the last forty years into the solution for income inequality will exacerbate rathe rthan address that problem.

But, on the matter of inheritance and legacy .... having an inheritance by way of land or assets is not a foregone conclusion across all ethnic groups in the last fifty years of the United States.  Ever hear of the American Indian Probate Reform Acts?  No.  It dates to ... 2004.  Yes, this millennium, this century. 

American Indians couldn't even set up their own probate processes for a long time.  Even when discussing the difference between what whites and blacks could receive by way of inheritance it's possible to skim over every other respective color group on the spectrum along the way. 

Probating Trust Assets

The American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA), which amended the Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA), was enacted on October 27, 2004. AIPRA created a nationwide Indian probate code and changed the way trust estates are distributed to heirs. AIPRA may affect ownership rights in trust or restricted land, except for land located in Alaska.

Understanding the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004

The American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA) was enacted on October 27, 2004. The Act amends the Indian Land Consolidation Act and amendments made in 2000 and this notice replaces the notice provided in 2001. This Act affects your ownership rights in trust or restricted land, unless the land is located in Alaska. Most of the provisions do not take effect for one (1) year.

AIPRA changes the way trust estates are distributed to your heirs after your death. This increases the importance and benefits of writing a will or doing an estate plan. AIPRA also improves your ability to consolidate your interests in trust or restricted land.

You can read more at your leisure.  As I've written about before, one of the reasons I didn't find Coates' case for reparations ultimately persuasive is because as inheritance goes American Indians were functionally barred from being able to create wills or establishing probate processes to give their children inheritance for the bulk of a century.  Institutionalized racism and white supremacy did not play out the same way across the board.  Slaves, regarded as property, were subjected to enforced breeding.  Native Americans were subjected to sterilization projects and massacre.  In that sense one of the groups was kept alive as property while another group was regarded as needing to be cleansed from the land.  It's not that the legacy of racism stopped being horrendous, it's that the kinds of arguments a Coates makes for reparations seem trapped within the logic of the evil, as Adolph Reed put it--it doesn't follow that the nature of the evil has to be given a response within the terms set by the evil.  That's an argument I find persuasive, particularly since the last century and a half had the Supreme Court and Congress working to very literally disinherit Native American groups. 

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