Community-Based Asset Building and Community Wealth


The author traces involvement in the wealth inequality movement since 1999 and the frustrations with realistically addressing wealth inequality and racial wealth gaps. This paper outlines the journey from understanding the importance of wealth in African American and other communities, to addressing collective structures for accumulating assets and wealth for low-income people of color. The author explores the role cooperatives play in creating community and collective wealth, and proposes alternatives to the mainstream savings strategies usually proposed.

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  1. 1.

    The exact quote is: “The Conference regards the economic development of the Negro Americans at present as in a critical state. The crisis arises not so much because of idleness or even lack of skill as by reason of the fact that they unwittingly stand hesitating at the cross roads one way leading to the old trodden ways of grasping fierce individualistic competition, where the shrewd, cunning, skilled and rich among them will prey upon the ignorance and simplicity of the mass of the race and get wealth at the expense of the general well being; the other way leading to co-operation in capital and labor, the massing of small savings, the wide distribution of capital and a more general equality of wealth and comfort. … But danger lurks here. The race does not recognize the parting of the ways, they tend to think and are being taught to think that any method which leads to individual riches is the way of salvation” (Du Bois 1907: 4).

  2. 2.

    Author’s conversations with William A. Darity, Jr. since the late 1980s; and see, for example Darity 2000; Darity and Gordon Nembhard 2000; Darity and Nicholson 2005, and Hamilton and Darity 2009.

  3. 3.

    Also see Deere and Doss 2006.

  4. 4.

    Patrick Mason and Edward N Wolff have also contributed important research in this area.

  5. 5.

    See the definition, principles and values outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance at

  6. 6.

    See Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security

  7. 7.

    Most of this paragraph comes from Gordon Nembhard 2013. I am continuing research on this topic and find that there are myriad ways that credit unions help their members build assets and create assets at the community level.

  8. 8.

    This could be considered another form of “forced savings,” but this is actually investment out of one’s salary in a business that one controls and so can make decision about how the equity will be invested, when it will be distributed, etc.

  9. 9.

    See Gordon Nembhard 2008a and 2013. The remainder of this paragraph comes from Gordon Nembhard 2013.


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Correspondence to Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

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Presidential address: Jessica Gordon Nembhard, NEA President, January 5, 2013, ASSA Meetings, San Diego, CA

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Gordon Nembhard, J. Community-Based Asset Building and Community Wealth. Rev Black Polit Econ 41, 101–117 (2014).

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  • Asset building
  • Wealth
  • Wealth inequality
  • Community economics
  • Cooperatives