New York report exposes shocking racial wealth gap as pressure for reparations commission grows

New York, New York - New York's racial wealth gap is once again under the spotlight as a hard deadline approaches in efforts to establish a statewide reparations commission.

New Yorkers rally for reparations at the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan.
New Yorkers rally for reparations at the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan.  © Mr. J. Antoine, courtesy of the December 12th Movement

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander released a new report on Wednesday revealing stark racial disparities across the state and city, finding that white households have a median net wealth of $276,900 as compared to just $18,870 for Black households – a wider gap than in the US as a whole.

These economic disparities persist despite education levels. The net worth of white New Yorkers with only a high school degree is over three times greater, on average, than that of Black New Yorkers with a bachelor's degree. Meanwhile, 54% of Black New Yorkers with bachelor's degrees have student debt, compared to 28% of their white counterparts.

On top of that, there are marked disparities in rates of homeownership – one of the primary means of generating intergenerational wealth. The study determined that 63% of white New Yorkers own their homes as compared to 24% of Black New Yorkers, and that white-owned properties tend to have significantly higher home values.

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"The data in our report show – in black and white – the persistence of a stark racial wealth gap in New York," Lander said in a statement. "The median household net worth of white New Yorkers is nearly 15 times that of Black New Yorkers – 15 times."

"These numbers add up to opportunities denied to millions of Black New Yorkers, wealth disparities perpetuated across generations, and a poorer city and state for all of us since inequality holds back economic growth for all."

The fight for a New York State reparations commission

Activists with the Get Free Movement rally in front of New York City Hall calling for Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a bill to create a state reparations commission.
Activists with the Get Free Movement rally in front of New York City Hall calling for Governor Kathy Hochul to sign a bill to create a state reparations commission.  © Screenshot/X/@getfree_mvmt

Racial justice advocates have long argued that the drastic difference in material conditions between Black and white Americans is not due to any failing on the part of Black people, but rather to the US' legacy of enslavement and racial discrimination.

Lander's report affirms the need for transformative solutions and comes as racial and social justice advocates urge Governor Kathy Hochul to create a New York State community commission on reparations remedies via S1163A.

As written, the legislation calls for a nine-member commission – including three members appointed by the governor, three by the Assembly speaker, and three by the Senate president pro tempore – to study and develop proposals to address ongoing injustices. The body would have one year to submit its final report.

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The bill and its companion, A7691, passed out of the State Senate and Assembly in June 2023, but the legislation will expire if Hochul does not sign by midnight on December 31.

Lander's findings provide added momentum behind the push for a bill signing.

The report's release also coincided with the 158th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery except as punishment for a crime. Racial justice advocates say there is still a long way to go to eliminate the vestiges of that unjust system.

Cover photo: Screenshot/X/@getfree_mvmt

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