Housing and anti-poverty advocates on Monday urged an Assembly committee to work to close the $300,000 racial wealth gap between white and black families in New Jersey.
This includes passing a bill to study possible reparationssaid one of the authors of “Making the Two New Jerseys One: Closing the $300,000 Racial Wealth Gap in the Garden State,” published by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in March.
“Reparations must be part of any conversation about closing the racial wealth gap,” the institute’s director of law and public policy, Andrea McChristian, told a special meeting of the Development and Welfare Committee. Assembly Community Affairs.
“It was not created overnight. It stems from the founding of the colony when English settlers received 150 acres plus 150 acres for each slave they brought,” McChristian said.
And it was compounded by covenants, red lines and predatory lending that kept black people in less desirable neighborhoods and often manipulated black families into financial disaster, she said.
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Nationally, the family wealth gap between white and black families is $160,000, McChristian said.
“New Jersey is one of the most prosperous states, but racial and ethnic inequality is still very prevalent,” said committee chair Shavonda Sumter.
“The pandemic has made it clear…when America catches a cold, minority communities catch pneumonia,” Sumter said.
“Three hundred thousand dollars. I repeat—$300,000—imagine what we could all do with that. Buy a new house, send our kids to college debt-free, pay off student loans,” McChristian said. “It’s out of reach for black communities in the state.”
In New Jersey, the median white family net worth is $322,500, she said, compared to just $17,500 for black family net worth.
About a third of black families have no wealth or more debt than assets, McChristian said, compared with a ninth of white families.
“The homeownership gap is a big driver (of the wealth gap) since homeownership is the primary way for most families to build wealth,” McChristian said.
While 76% of white families own their own homes, only 38% of black families do, she said. And white families have a lot more equity in those homes, which means a lot more ability to extract wealth from them.
Blacks and Latinos are also much less likely to have retirement accounts and stocks, McChristian said.
Only about 10% of blacks inherit from their parents, compared to 25% of whites.
She urged lawmakers to pass three bills now in the legislature:
A1579which would earmark $70 million to create a baby bond program giving babies born to low-income families in the state $2,000 in an account to be used only for education, down payment on a home or d other specific approved uses
A1519which would revoke or suspend licenses and/or fine anyone found guilty of conducting a discriminatory assessment of residential property on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin of the buyer or seller of the property.
A938which would set up the “New Jersey Reparations Task Force” to study and develop proposals for reparations for African Americans in the state.
The California Task Force to Study and Develop Remedial Proposals for African Americans was established by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020 and recently released its report on steps the state can take to redress a long history of racial abuse.
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice report found that while 17% of blacks in New Jersey have household incomes below the official poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of three), only 6% of whites of New Jersey do.
The state’s median white household income is $91,764, which is more than 60% higher than the median black household income of $56,301.
“We’re calling on the state to make black lives matter in New Jersey,” McChristian said, with these and other investments.
JOURNALIST: Michelle Brunetti