Congratulations! You beat the odds by being among the nearly 40 percent of all Americans and nearly 30 percent of Black-Americans to obtain a post-secondary degree. However, the battle is far from won. Studies suggest that irrespective of race, unless you were raised in an upper-income home, your financial wellbeing is more likely to decrease, than increase. Moreover, for first and second generation college educated Blacks, the likelihood of any significant gains in wealth being passed to the next generation appear to be disproportionately lower – but why?
Black households are much more likely than Whites to have zero net worth, which can be attributed, at least in part, to the effects of historically discriminatory wage, lending, and realty practices, as well as the fractured state of the Black family. The median net worth of Black households primarily consists of home equity and, according to some studies, is approximately 20 times less than that of White households, which in contrast comprises diverse assets, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and retirement accounts.
Data shows that Black baby-boomers, the parents of today’s young professionals, are less prepared for retirement than their White counterparts, and that far too many individuals with graduate or professional degrees are less prepared for retirement than those who have only a bachelor’s degree – say what? What part of the “American Dream” is this?
Here enters the unique plight of far too many young black professionals. Parents with few or no assets are unable to make substantial contributions to their children’s education. This was true for our parents’ parents, our parents, and if we are not proactive, it will also be true for us and our children.
The wealth gap between Blacks and Whites is at a 25 year peak, despite an increase in the percentage of Blacks with degrees. Student loan debt, which has recently surpassed 1 trillion dollars nationally, seems a likely culprit.
On Friday November 15, 2014, the NYULYP Civics and Economics Committee held a town hall to bring attention to the student loan crisis. The nearly two dozen attendees shared a total of more than $1.2 million in student loan debt. The future looks to be riddled with financial hardship if immediate action is not taken soon.
What can we do to change the course of our financial futures? And what can we do to ensure that our children start at a more level playing-field? These are some of the problems that the NYULYP Civics and Economics Committee has been tackling head on, by simultaneously calling for legislative action and holding home ownership and financial literacy workshops for our members and communities. It’s extremely important for everyone to participate in this conversation and be a part of the movement.
Mary J. Goodwin, a Brooklyn native, is a disability civil rights attorney at Jo Anne Simon, P.C. She’s a product of the NYC public school system, holds a Juris Doctor from Syracuse University College of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts in History & Political Science from St. Joseph’s College. Mary has committed herself to the education and self-empowerment of underserved members of society. Mary serves on the New York State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section Executive Committee as liaison to the Association’s Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Section Executive Committee. In her spare time, Mary enjoys spending time with her family and friends, listening to live music, singing, and cooking delicious food.