Black Women & Wealth: Gender Disparity Even Among Black 1 Percent

By Shartia Brantley

A review of the 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances data reveals a troubling disparity: the top black 1 percent of households by income did not include a woman as head of the household . The same is true for for Hispanics. This doesn’t mean female-headed households do not exist among the top income earners, but their numbers appear to be small.

“It’s somewhat depressing, but it kind of shows us for every Sheila Johnson or Oprah Winfrey, clearly hundreds of thousands are financially struggling and not where they want to be in terms of income and net worth,” says Lynnette Kalfani-Cox, Co-founder of, a free financial advice blog.

Black women lack participation in so-called “wealth builders,” says Wilhelmina Leigh, Senior Research Associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies , Leigh says looking at the drivers of wealth underscores the scarcity of black women in the top 1 percent.

“Look at the major forms of wealth — owning a house, stocks, bonds and business ownership. African-Americans fall short and African-American women especially fall short in terms of having those things,” says Leigh. “So it’s not a mystery at all. It’s an unfortunate and very explainable reality.”

Ironically, black women are earning more college degrees their male counterparts, but have not been able to capitalize on that advantage when it comes to building wealth.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, black women earned 66 percent of bachelors degrees conferred to African-Americans, versus 34 percent for black men in the 2008-2009 academic year.

“Women are not on the ‘wealth escalator,'” says Mariko Chang, author of Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth & What Can Be Done About It. “These are things that help people convert their wealth more quickly.”

They include fringe benefits such as company sponsored retirement accounts and health benefits. Chang says women are more likely to work part-time jobs that don’t offer these benefits.

A black woman 1 percenter, who asks not to be identified, says “the critical thing necessary in building wealth is that you have to take risks. Women who want to have children and a family have to bet harder , younger.”

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