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The Intersection and Accumulation of Racial and Gender Inequality: Black Women’s Wealth Trajectories

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The Review of Black Political Economy

Abstract

Prior research has found evidence of large racial and gender disparities in wealth, with blacks possessing less wealth than whites and women having less wealth than men. An intersectionality approach suggests that the overlapping impacts of racial and gender domination are likely to combine in a multiplicative fashion that places black women in a uniquely precarious economic position. However, little is known about the wealth holdings of black women and even less is known about whether their wealth increases, decreases or remains stable as they approach retirement age, a stage of life when savings are especially important. This study utilizes seven waves of panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and growth curve models to estimate the wealth trajectories of black women between the ages of 51 and 73. Results reveal that black women have especially low levels of net worth and net financial assets during middle and late life, suggesting high risk of economic insecurity in later life. Consistent with political economy and intersectionality perspectives, their persistently low wealth trajectories are likely the result of state policies, discrimination, residential segregation and health disparities. Ameliorative policy prescriptions are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

Research support was provided to the author by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College (RWJF Grant 64300 and sub-award 100927DLH216-02). I thank William A. Darity, Jr., Darrick Hamilton, and C. André Christie-Mizell for helpful comments and suggestions on prior drafts.

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Correspondence to Tyson Brown.

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Brown, T. The Intersection and Accumulation of Racial and Gender Inequality: Black Women’s Wealth Trajectories. Rev Black Polit Econ 39, 239–258 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12114-011-9100-8

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