NEWARK – The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice today released Making the Two New Jerseys One: Closing the $300,000 Racial Wealth Gap in the Garden State.
The new report reveals that while New Jersey is one of the most prosperous states in the nation, it is also characterized by some of the starkest racial and economic inequities. The Institute will be discussing these findings at a virtual event tonight, described below.
“There are Two New Jerseys. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. identified Two Americas over fifty years ago, today the Garden State is characterized by two economic extremes,” said Laura Sullivan, Director of the Economic Justice Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and primary author of the report. “In one New Jersey, made up disproportionately of Black and Brown households, families struggle to make ends meet. In the other, predominately white families have substantial wealth and financial reserves to weather the economic uncertainties of life and support mobility for their children. This is the definition of injustice.”
The racial wealth gap between Black and white households in the U.S. is about $160,000, a substantial disparity, but one which pales in comparison to the gap in New Jersey.
According to the Institute’s newly released research, the median household wealth of white families in New Jersey is $322,500, compared to just $17,700 and $26,100 for Black and Latina/o families, respectively. For individuals, the median net worth of white individuals is $103,50, compared with just $4,900 and $2,300 for Black and Latina/o people.
“The U.S. has a major racial wealth gap problem. New Jersey has a racial wealth gap disaster,” said Sullivan.
The report also addresses other financial disparities in New Jersey, including income and homeownership. While 17% of Black New Jerseyans have household incomes under the official poverty threshold (about $22,000 for a family of three), only 6% of white New Jerseyans do. The median income of white households in the state is $91,764 – over 60% more than the median income of Black households at $56,301. And while three-quarters (75.9%) of white families own their own homes in the Garden State, just 38.4% of Black families do.
“Economic disparities and the racial wealth gap in New Jersey were created by design – by our institutions, our public policies and through social exclusion and violence. Therefore, we must enact policies that repair past and ongoing harms to make the Two New Jerseys one and to close the racial wealth gap,” said Andrea McChristian, Law & Policy Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
The new report examines the core building blocks of the racial wealth gap in New Jersey and proposes the following policy solutions to chart a way forward to close it:
Housing and Homeownership:
Expand homeownership through first-generation programs
Establish a Fair Appraisal Law
Work and Benefits:
Improve quality of existing jobs through workplace benefits and protections
Expand access to quality jobs
Create a statewide guaranteed income program
Unequal Access to Intergenerational Wealth-Building Assets:
Launch a robust New Jersey Baby Bonds program
Enhance financial empowerment programs
Student Loans Weighing Down Black Borrowers:
Cancel student loans to repair the harm of underfunded higher education
Remove financial barriers to higher education through increased state investment
Increase transparency & understanding of student loan disparities
Establish the New Jersey Reparations Task Force