The Cost of Being Black

How can disadvantage persist so long after most laws, minds and practices have changed? Thomas M. Shapiro argues in this sober and authoritative book that we should look to disparities of wealth for the answer. Whites are wealthier than African Americans, and whites’ wealth advantage is much bigger than their advantages in either income or education (the point of Shapiro’s earlier study, Black Wealth/White Wealth, co-authored with Melvin Oliver). Whites start out ahead because they inherit more from their parents, and America’s racially segregated housing markets boost whites’ home equities, while depressing those of African-American families. Shapiro, a professor of sociology at Brandeis, takes readers through the implications of these inequities and concludes that African Americans will not gain significant ground in the wealth divide until inheritance and housing policies change.

The Washington Post reviews Shapiro’s The Hidden Cost of Being African American.