Events General SPI

Bold Responses to the Racial Wealth Gap

Recent Fed data suggest that Black households have about 12 cents for every $1 held by white households, a modest narrowing since 2016 but essentially unchanged over the last generation. This is despite educational, political, legal and other gains during that time. Further research by the St. Louis Fed shows that most of this wealth gap can be explained by historical and institutional barriers that good financial and educational choices alone are not likely to overcome—suggesting that narrowing the gap may require bolder responses.

The event took place 1:00- 2:30 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. It was sponsored by the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis to explore some of these responses. Proposed questions included:

  • What is the rationale for reparations, and are there any precedents? What would these proposals cost, and who should pay for them? Who are the eligible recipients, and what should they receive?
  • What role could “baby bonds” and tax reform play in narrowing racial and opportunity gaps?
  • Are there alternative ways to address large and enduring racial economic inequities, and how can educational, gender and generational wealth gaps be addressed


  • William A. Darity Jr. and Kirsten Mullen, authors of “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century”
  • C. Eugene Steuerle, Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair, Urban Institute; Cofounder, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center
  • Scott Winship, resident scholar and director of Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute
  • Ray Boshara, director, Center for Household Financial Stability, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (moderator)