A recent study on "women of color, wealth, and America's future" found that while the median net worth (assets minus debts) of single white women is $41,500, the median net worth of single African-American women is only $100. Since black women are often the sole breadwinners in their households, this stark disparity calls attention to the tenuous economic status of black families across the United States. Wealth disparity for black women is aggravated by racism, classism, and sexism, according to Maya Rockeymoore, founder of Global Policy Solutions, a social policy consulting firm in Washington, D.C. In this interview with Sojourners Web editor Jeannie Choi, Rockeymoore describes barriers that have prevented black women from gaining wealth and suggests practical ways toward a more equitable future.
Jeannie Choi: Why do African-American women own significantly less wealth than any other social demographic in the United States?
Maya Rockeymoore: Black women live at the intersection of three confounding variables: racism, classism, and sexism. Historically, these variables have played a role in terms of who gets opportunities and who doesn’t; black women have had a hard time building assets in a way that can save themselves and their families.
The forebears of African-American women came to this country under a regime that enabled slavery. They were not able to earn a living wage for their work, and then they transitioned after slavery to Jim Crow, which left them unable to fully participate as equal citizens in society. So there is a legacy of significant poverty amongst African-American women and certainly a dearth of assets.