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The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race

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Racial Wealth Gap

The Racial Wealth Gap

People of color have faced economic inequality for generations, and the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests has renewed discussions on these disparities.

Compared to White families, other races have lower levels of income and net worth. They are also less likely to hold assets of any type. In fact, 19% of Black families have zero or negative net worth, while only 9% of White households have no wealth.

Today’s chart uses data from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances to highlight the racial wealth gap, and the proportion of households that own different kinds of assets by racial group.

Asset Types Held By Race

The financial profile between racial groups varies widely. Below is the percentage of U.S. families with each type of asset, according to the most recent survey from 2016.

 WhiteBlackHispanicOther
Primary Residence73%45%46%54%
Vehicle90%73%80%80%
Retirement Accounts60%34%30%48%
Family-owned Business Equity15%7%6%13%
Publicly-traded Stocks61%31%28%47%

Vehicles are the most common asset across all racial groups, followed by a primary residence.

However, the level of equity—or home value less debts—families have in their houses differs by race. White families have equity of $215,800, whereas Black and Hispanic households have net housing wealth of $94,400 and $129,800 respectively.

In addition, White households are more likely to hold financial assets such as retirement accounts, family businesses, and stocks. These assets are instrumental in building wealth, and are prominent in the wealth composition of America’s richest families.

With fewer people of color holding these assets, they miss out on higher average returns than low-risk assets, as well as the power of compound interest. These portfolio differences are striking, but they are not the most important contributing factor in the racial wealth gap.

Demographic and Economic Variations

White households are also more likely to have demographic characteristics that are associated with wealth. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, they are:

  • Older, with more than half of households age 55 and up
  • More highly educated, with 51% having some type of degree
  • Less likely to have a single parent
  • More likely to have received an inheritance

For example, 39% of White heads of households have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 23% and 17% for Black and Hispanic household heads, respectively. However, education doesn’t fully explain the wealth inequities.

Racial Wealth Gap by Education

Enormous wealth disparities exist between families with the same education level. Even in cases where Black and Hispanic household heads have obtained a bachelor’s degree, their families’ median wealth of $68,000 and $78,000 respectively is still lower than the $98,000 median wealth for White families where the head has no bachelor’s degree.

After accounting for demographic factors, researchers still found there were considerable inequities. What, then, could be primarily responsible for the racial wealth gap?

The Income Gap

While previous research found that the wealth gap is “too big” to be explained by a difference in income, a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers a new perspective. Focusing on White and Black U.S. households only, researchers analyzed the dynamics of wealth accumulation over time, as opposed to previous studies that considered short time periods.

They found that income inequality was the primary contributor to the racial wealth gap. According to the model, if Black and White households had earned the same labor income from 1962 onwards, the Black-to-White wealth ratio would have reached 0.9 by 2007.

Moving forward, the study concludes that policy changes will likely have a positive impact if they address issues contributing to income gaps. This includes reducing racial discrimination in the labor market, and creating programs, such as mentorships, that improve environments for specific racial subgroups.

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The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart

The world’s total GDP crested $88 trillion in 2019—but how are the current COVID-19 economic contractions affecting its future outlook?

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The $88 Trillion World Economy in One Chart

The global economy can seem like an abstract concept, yet it influences our everyday lives in both obvious and subtle ways. Nowhere is this clearer than in the current economic state amid the throes of the pandemic.

This voronoi-style visualization from HowMuch relies on gross domestic product (GDP) data from the World Bank to paint a picture of the global economy—which crested $87.8 trillion in 2019.

Editor’s note: Annual data on economic output is a lagging indicator, and is released the following year by organizations such as the World Bank. The figures in this diagram provide a snapshot of the global economy in 2019, but do not necessarily represent the impact of recent developments such as COVID-19.

Top 10 Countries by GDP (2019)

In the one-year period since the last release of official data in 2018, the global economy grew approximately $2 trillion in size—or about 2.3%.

The United States continues to have the top GDP, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the world economy. China also continued to grow its share of global GDP, going from 15.9% to 16.3%.

RankCountryGDP% of Global GDP
#1🇺🇸 U.S.$21.4T24.4%
#2🇨🇳 China$14.3T16.3%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$5.1T5.8%
#4🇩🇪 Germany$3.9T4.4%
#5🇮🇳 India$2.9T3.3%
#6🇬🇧 UK$2.8T3.2%
#7🇫🇷 France$2.7T3.1%
#8🇮🇹 Italy$2.0T2.3%
#9🇧🇷 Brazil$1.8T2.1%
#10🇨🇦 Canada$1.7T2.0%
Top 10 Countries$58.7 trillion66.9%

In recent years, the Indian economy has continued to have an upward trajectory—now pulling ahead of both the UK and France—to become one of the world’s top five economies.

In aggregate, these top 10 countries combine for over two-thirds of total global GDP.

2020 Economic Contractions

So far this year, multiple countries have experienced temporary economic contractions, including many of the top 10 countries listed above.

The following interactive chart from Our World in Data helps to give us some perspective on this turbulence, comparing Q2 economic figures against those from the same quarter last year.

One of the hardest hit economies has been Peru. The Latin American country, which is about the 50th largest in terms of GDP globally, saw its economy contract by 30.2% in Q2 despite efforts to curb the virus early.

Spain and the UK are also feeling the impact, posting quarterly GDP numbers that are 22.1% and 21.7% smaller respectively.

Meanwhile, Taiwan and South Korea are two countries that may have done the best at weathering the COVID-19 storm. Both saw minuscule contractions in a quarter where the global economy seemed to grind to a halt.

Projections Going Forward

According to the World Bank, the global economy could ultimately shrink 5.2% in 2020—the deepest cut since WWII.

See below for World Bank projections on GDP in 2020 for when the dust settles, as well as the subsequent potential for recovery in 2021.

Country/ Region / Economy Type2020 Growth Projection2021E Rebound Forecast
United States-6.1%4.0%
Euro Area-9.1%4.5%
Advanced economies-7.0%3.9%
Emerging economies-2.5%4.6%
East Asia and Pacific-0.5%6.6%
Europe and Central Asia-4.7%3.6%
Latin America and the Caribbean-7.2%2.8%
Middle East and North Africa-4.2%2.3%
South Asia-2.7%2.8%
Sub-Saharan Africa-2.8%3.1%
Global Growth-5.2%4.2%

Source: World Bank Global Economic Prospects, released June 2020

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Ranked: The World’s Richest Families in 2020

Who’s the richest of them all? Here’s a look at the 25 wealthiest families in the world, and the companies that kickstarted their empires.

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The World’s Richest Families in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the world’s wealthiest families from growing their fortunes. Over the past year, the richest family—the Waltons—grew their wealth by $25 billion, or almost $3 million per hour.

This graphic, using data from Bloomberg, ranks the 25 most wealthy families in the world. The data excludes first-generation wealth and wealth controlled by a single heir, which is why you don’t see Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates on the list. Families whose source of wealth is too diffused or opaque to be valued are also excluded.

The Full Breakdown

Intergenerational wealth is a powerful thing. It often prevails through market crashes, social turmoil, and economic uncertainty, and this year has been no exception.

Here’s a look at the 25 most wealthy families in 2020:

RankNameCompanyWealth, $BSectorLocation
1WaltonWalmart215Consumer services🇺🇸 Bentonville, Arkansas
2MarsMars120Consumer goods🇺🇸 McLean, Virginia
3KochKoch Industries109.7Industrials🇺🇸 Wichita, Kansas
4Al SaudN/A95Industrials🇸🇦 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5AmbaniReliance Industries81.3Industrials🇮🇳 Mumbai, India
6HermèsHermès63.9Consumer services🇫🇷 Paris, France
7WertheimerChanel54.4Consumer services🇫🇷 Paris, France
8Johnson (Fidelity)Fidelity Investments46.3Financials🇺🇸 Boston, New York
9Boehringer, Von BaumbachBoehringer Ingelheim45.7Health care🇩🇪 Inglheim, Germany
10AlbrechtAldi41Consumer services🇩🇪 Rhineland, Germany
11ThomsonThomson Reuters40.6Communication🇨🇦 Ontario, Canada
12Hoffmann, OeriRoche38.8Health care🇨🇭 Basel, Switzerland
13MulliezAuchan38.4Consumer services🇫🇷 Lille, France
14Cargill, MacMillanCargill38.1Industrials🇺🇸 Minneapolis, Minnesota
15Johnson (SC)SC Johnson37.3Consumer services🇺🇸 Racine, Wisconsin
16Van Damme, De Spoelberch, De MeviusAnheuser-Busch InBev36.8Consumer goods🇧🇪 Belgium
17QuandtBMW34.7Consumer services🇩🇪 Munich, Germany
18CoxCox Enterprises33.1Communication 🇺🇸 Atlanta, Georgia
19RausingTetra Laval32.9Materials🇬🇧 London, England
20NewhouseAdvance Publications31Communication🇺🇸 New York, New York
21ChearavanontCharoen Pokphand Group30.7Diversified🇹🇭 Bangkok, Thailand
22FerreroFerrero30.5Consumer goods🇮🇹 Alba, Italy
23KwokSun Hung Kai Properties30.4Real estate🇭🇰 Hong Kong
24PritzkerHyatt Hotels29.6Consumer services🇺🇸 Chicago, Illinois
25LeeSamsung29Diversified🇰🇷 Seoul, South Korea

*Note: The Al Saud’s net worth is based on cumulative payouts royal family members were estimated to have received over the past 50 years.

The Waltons are the richest family on the list by far, with a net worth of $215 billion—that’s $95 billion more than the second wealthiest family. Sam Walton, the family’s patriarch, founded Walmart in 1962. Since then, it’s become the world’s largest retailer by revenue.

When Sam passed away in 1992, his three children—James, Alice, and Rob—inherited his fortune. Now, the trio co-owns about half of Walmart.

In second place is the Mars family, with a net worth of $120 billion. The family is well-known for their candy empire, but interestingly, about half of the company’s value comes from pet care holdings. Mars Inc. owns several popular pet food brands, including Pedigree, Cesar, and Royal Canin—and it expanded its pet presence further in 2017 when it acquired VCA, a company with almost 800 small animal vet hospitals across the U.S. and Canada.

The Koch family is the world’s third-richest family. Their fortune is rooted in an oil firm founded by Fred C. Koch. Following Fred’s death in 1967, the firm was inherited by his four sons—Frederick, Charles, David, and William. After a family feud, Frederick and William left the business, and Charles and David went on to build the mega industrial conglomerate known as Koch Industries.

Despite being affected by the oil crash this year, the Koch family’s wealth still sits at $109.7 billion. Before David’s passing in 2019, he and his brother Charles were heavily involved in politics—and their political efforts were the subject of much scrutiny.

Richest Families, by Sector

It’s important to note that many of these families have diversified their investments across a variety of industries. For instance, while the Koch family’s wealth is largely concentrated in the industrial sector and commodities, they also dabble in real-estate—in May 2020, they made a $200 million bet on U.S. rental homes.

That being said, it’s interesting to see where each of these families started, and which sectors have bred the highest number of ultra-wealthy families.

Here’s a breakdown of each sector and how many families on the list got started in them:

SectorNumber of FamiliesTotal Wealth, $B
Consumer Services8514.3
Industrials4324.1
Consumer Goods3187.3
Communications3104.7
Health Care284.5
Diversified259.7
Financials146.3
Basical Materials132.9
Real Estate130.4

The top sector is consumer services—8 of the 25 families are heavily involved in this sector. Walmart helped generate the most wealth out of families in this space, while luxury brands Hermès and Chanel were the source of fortune for the next two wealthiest families.

Industrial is the second largest sector, with 4 of the 25 families involved. It’s also one of the most lucrative sectors—out of the top five wealthiest families on the list, three are in industrials. The Koch family is the wealthiest family in this category, followed by the Al Saud family and the Ambani family, respectively.

Communications and consumer goods are tied for third, with 3 of the 25 families in each. The Thomsons, who founded Thomson Reuters, are the wealthiest family in communications, while the Mars family has the highest net worth in the consumer goods sector.

Resilient, but not Bulletproof

Despite a global recession, most of the world’s wealthiest families seem to be doing just fine—however, not everyone on the list has been thriving this year.

The Koch family’s fortune dropped by $15 billion from 2019 to 2020, and the current political climate in Hong Kong has had a negative impact on the Kwok family’s real estate empire.

While intergenerational wealth certainty has resilience, how much economic and social turmoil can it withstand? It’ll be interesting to see which families make the list in 2021.

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