Black households in Chicago lag behind others, without liquid assets

Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, says he could have easily predicted the findings of a new “Color of Wealth” survey that highlights the typical Black Chicago household has fewer liquid assets and less to fall back on than any other racial or ethnic group.

In addition to finding that Black households have a median net worth of zero compared to $210,000 for white families, researchers from the Institute on Race, Power and Political Economy also found that black residents are far less likely to own stock, individual retirement accounts and homes compared to white, Mexicans and Puerto Rican families.

Ford said access to jobs is important.

“If you look at contract opportunities and jobs, the rate of pay and the pay disparity with Black people, you don’t see diversity in the workplace the way you should,” Ford told The Center Square. “It’s all about contracts and opportunities. Government helps individuals become millionaires, whether it’s an individual or corporation, they all rely on government assistance. The only reason why other groups are able to succeed and have built wealth for their families is because they’re given opportunities.”

With much of the deficit in Black household wealth linked to the checkered history of race-based covenants, redlining and other forms of segregation, Ford argued that Black residents continue to pay a heavy price.

“It’s an inherent problem that’s generational that’s passed on,” he said. “Some people pass on wealth, some people pass on poverty and if we want to do better as a society we have to look at government leading the way with contracts.”

Ford said there is still much work to do before things are as he feels they should be.

“I think that we’re going backwards,” he said. “It’s getting worse, and Black people trying to start businesses don’t have the capital. Look at cannabis right now. Cannabis is a perfect example of a new industry that Black people can’t be as engaged in because they don’t have capital.”