Makin' Money

Race and the recession

Chris Farrell Feb 22, 2011

Race and the Recession: How Americans are getting by is an incredibly rich series. The survey is by the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University. It looks into the finances and attitudes of Americans following the high unemployment and wealth destruction of the Great Recession.

For instance, the fact that African Americans and Hispanics have small investment portfolios is hardly surprising. But the numbers are still sobering, especially when it comes to retirement savings. According to the polling data, only 46% of blacks and 32% of Hispanics had an IRA, 401(k) or comparable retirement account. One in four African Americans and one in six Hispanics owned stocks, bonds or mutual funds.

In sharp contrast half of whites reported that they had stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Two in three had an IRAs, 401(k)s and the like. (These figures, while better, are still too small.)

The downturn hit African-Americans and Hispanics the hardest. Yet both groups remained hopeful that the they would prosper when the economy recovered. For instance:

Still, a substantial majority of African Americans are bullish about the future. More than half say they are better off than their parents were at the same age, and six in 10 are confident that their children will be even more prosperous.

Who had the darkest vision of America’s economic future and their place in it? Whites without a college degree. More than half–56%–say that the nation’s best days are behind it.

Fully 43 percent of non-college whites say “hard work and determination are no guarantees of success,” and nearly half doubt that they have enough education and skills to compete in the job market.

Check out the series.

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