• Sun-Times
  • An abandoned building in Woodlawn in 2011. The foreclosure crisis expanded the wealth gap between whites and minorities.

“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships,” W.E.B. Dubois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, published in 1903.

One hundred and ten years later, blacks and Hispanics are making half as much as whites, a recent Urban Institute report shows. But the racial gap in wealth—assets minus debts—is far greater. The average wealth of white families in 2010 ($632,000) was almost six times that of Hispanic families ($110,000) and more than six times that of black families ($98,000). The median wealth figures are similarly lopsided: $124,000 for white families, $16,000 for black families, $15,000 for Hispanic families.

The wealth gap between blacks and whites has seeds in our nation’s centuries of slavery, and the discrimination that persisted long after the Civil War. In more recent years, the federal government hasn’t sat idly by in the face of the wealth gap. The government has helped widen it.