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The great wealth divide

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

It's no secret that the Great Recession hit some people harder than others, but for blacks and Hispanics it has become the great wealth divide. Both groups have lost decades' worth of financial gains, with whites now claiming an average of 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics.

The latest Census data confirms that high unemployment coupled with the housing crisis had the worst effect on those who didn't have the time to shore up sufficient assets to ride out the crash. Younger minorities in particular, whose main asset is their home, were severely impacted during the recession because many bought at the height of the market. Older whites, who are more likely to have retirement accounts and other stock market investments, fared better.

Stock funds, retirement accounts and savings amounted to 28 percent of whites' net worth, compared with 19 percent for blacks and 15 percent for Hispanics, leading some analysts to worry that as the stock market recovers and the housing market stalls, the wealth gap will widen even further.  

According to Pew Research Center analysis, white households had a median net worth of $113,149 in 2009, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks -- a ratio of 20 to 1 for blacks and 18 to 1 for Hispanics. In 1995, when better economic times lifted many minorities into the middle class, the ratio was 7 to 1 for both groups.

The financial devastation of the recession will have long-lasting effects on everyone, but for some, it means starting from zero again.

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