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The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195181388
ISBN-10: 0195181387
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shapiro, coauthor of Black Wealth/White Wealth, has helped establish that the racial gap in wealth-i.e., assets, including property-is more enduring than the gap in income. That gap, a 10-fold ratio, is exemplified by what the author terms "transformative assets"-gifts, from parents and others, that work to lift succeeding generations economically and socially beyond their own achievements. Interviews with black, white and Hispanic families in Boston, Los Angeles and St. Louis show families with similar incomes living in stratified neighborhoods (and better school districts) thanks to parental help. Most of the white interviewees don't recognize the role of Shapiro's form of privilege in their lives, while middle-class blacks report far more issues with needy parents, relatives and friends. Shapiro, who holds a chair in law and social policy at Brandeis, also shows why it costs more for blacks to buy homes: discrimination in credit, higher interest rates (whites have more capacity to pay "points") and depressed home values caused by residential segregation all contribute. At the same time, Shapiro says, policies such as the federal tax break on mortgage interest perpetuates inequality by making the relatively rich richer. He proposes several class-based, tax-eased solutions at the federal level that go beyond social security: children's savings accounts; individual development accounts that match savings; and down payment accounts to help buy homes, drawn from a partial tax credit for renters. Such policies, he reminds us, would hardly be outlandish; they echo previous asset-building policies such as the Homestead Act, the GI Bill and Veterans Administration home loans. A reformed estate tax, he argues, would also help move toward fairness. With all the data Shapiro convincingly pulls together, this should be an essential document for policy groups and could reframe the debate around affirmative action and reparations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Shapiro follows up on his earlier work, Black Wealth/White Wealth (1995), which reflected on the racial inequality that is passed from one generation to the next. In this book, Shapiro relates stories, drawn from interviews with both blacks and whites, from the Boston, L.A., and St. Louis areas, of how individuals and families use their assets to secure advantage and opportunities. Shapiro focuses not just on inherited wealth but also on what he calls transformative assets, which help to get families beyond their own achievement levels, for instance, providing a down payment for a home. He explores the equity values associated with owning homes and the connection between home ownership, community, and high-quality education. He also examines government policies that impact racial inequality, including the post-World War II housing boom facilitated by the FHA, which excluded black participation, negatively affecting generations to follow. Shapiro does an excellent job of showing the connections between racial inequality, opportunities, and family wealth. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195181387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195181388
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.9 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas M. Shapiro is a professor of Sociology and Public Policy at Brandeis University and is the author The Hidden Costs of Being African American and the co-author of Black Wealth/White Wealth. Shapiro's current professional titles include the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy and the Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. The primary areas of focus for Shapiro's research and publications are racial inequality and public policy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Fred McGhee on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Make no mistake about it. The snide comment by Washington Post reviewer Michael Hout above indicates a fundamental inability to comprehend what Shapiro is saying. Why would Hout choose to write this in his review?:

"Families and generations are at the core of Shapiro's analysis. So I was surprised that he did not directly address how marriage and family structure fit into the cycles of accumulation, inheritance and investment. Married couples accumulate more wealth than single parents do, according to other researchers. That suggests to me that African-American family issues must play a role in the wealth gap."

Hout obviously is attempting to make a point about the high rate of single parent families within Black America, and is implying that if only Black women chose to marry the fathers of their babies that they would not suffer many of the consequences Shapiro lays out in his book. There is but one problem: Shapiro addresses this lame-ass "culture of poverty" nonsense repeatedly in his book, and convincingly shows that even if Black marriage rates were equal to white rates that African-Americans would STILL have less wealth, educational opportunities, and transformative assets. Moreover, Shapiro does a good job of pointing out the motivations behind WHY whites like Mr. Houst consistenly resort to the same trite culturalist arguments of Black pathology when confronted with the troubling facts: they can't bring themselves to admit that their white privilege was constructed and is maintained at the expense of people of color, especially Blacks, because it shatters their deep-seated need to believe that they "earned" everything that they have instead of having been bequeathed it as a result of generations of racial prejudice and institutional racism.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Black people are bringing home bigger paychecks than ever. They face less overt racism on a day-to-day basis. Everything's copacetic, right? WRONG. This book is so important because it shows why African Americans pass along inequality from generation to generation. Most white people who "make it on their own" it turns out, tend to have a little help from their parents in buying their first house. $10,000, $20,000, or more, this means that they can put more money down, get a lower interst rate, move into a better neighborhood, with better schools, so their kids get better educations and all of the priveleges that access to such schools brings. And it all happens again in the next generation.
Shapiro brings this to life by talking to black and white people about how they have made their way in the world. Inherited assets, it turns out, have a lot to do with it.
This is a book that will force black and white people alike to think about how racial inequality is passed down from generation to generation. I myself would argue that it makes the case for at least a more serious discussion of reparations in the form of home buying grants or something of that kind, and an INCREASE in the so-called "death tax".
Read it and think about it!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By vabookreader on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Thomas M. Shapiro's _The Hidden Cost of Being African American_ (2004) is a powerful book that offers a unique look at economic inequality across racial lines. His discussion is not yet part of the mainstream discussion of race and government policy, but it should be, and his book makes an important contribution. His analysis is convincing, and the solutions he offers are worth serious consideration.

Shapiro's methodology is engaging. He uses statistical data aggregated from the longitudinal Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID)-an ongoing government funded study begun in 1968 that examines the finances of approximately 8,000 American families. In addition, he and his research team interviewed approximately 200 families in Boston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, half of whom were black, half were white, with a subset of latino families. Shapiro blends statistical data with the voices of the families he has interviewed. People discuss their salaries, their financial assets, their reasoning for buying and selling homes, and their thoughts about money. This approach makes for a highly readable book.

Based on PSID data and the interviews, Shapiro focuses on the imbalance in asset-share between African Americans and white Americans, and its repercussions. He shifts the discussion from one focused on salaries, where in the last two decades there has been progress toward greater parity between whites' and blacks' wages, to a study of real assets. From an asset perspective, Shapiro argues, the nation's economic picture is very problematic.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Results Matter B on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
I really learned why real estate in communities of color so often is worth less money than when the exact same housing or real estate is available in white communities. What a terrible price people of color pay for our nation's social cancer of racism. Our collective racism cloaks our underlying issues of pretending there is no classism in the USA. I appreciate Dr. Shapiro's honest assessment of the situation and his clarity in analyzing the actual numbers and statistics underneath the money and educational disparities that can keep some African American families from achieving the wealth levels they would otherwise easily be able to enjoy. Great reading and a fair minded resource for all Americans of any heritage.
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