Originally created 07/31/98

Blacks are urged to increase wealth



WASHINGTON -- Black Americans face being left out of the nation's economic prosperity unless community leaders set a new civil rights agenda focusing on ways black families can accumulate wealth and assets, the National Urban League said Thursday.

Many people believe the growing black middle class and the emergence of many black millionaires have moved black Americans closer to economic equality with white Americans, Urban League President Hugh Price said in releasing his organization's annual report.

"The reality is, no matter how great incomes become for individual blacks, our wealth is not sustained because we have very few assets that can be passed on from generation to generation," he said.

The authors of the study, "The State of Black America 1998," say the nation cannot afford to have so many black families trapped in inner-city poverty, where they are isolated from mainstream society and their children are poorly educated.

The Urban League urges America's universities, businesses, labor unions and governments to make a renewed commitment to affirmative action

"Individual self-sufficiency, as important as that is, cannot be the ultimate goal," Mr. Price writes in the report's introduction. "Black folks must push past that and go for economic power."

Among the study's findings:

-- Black families lag far behind their white counterparts in the accumulation of wealth and personal assets. Even among households earning $50,000 or more, where the wealth gap is narrowest, blacks possess barely one-half the median net worth of their white counterparts, the report said. While young white families often get a head start in accumulating wealth, usually in the form of help with a down payment on their first homes, blacks usually don't have that advantage, the study's researchers said.

-- Black families have been hardest hit as manufacturing and other well-paying jobs have moved out of the nation's cities. "The disappearance of work has had devastating effects not only on individuals and families, but on the social life of neighborhoods as well," the study said. The level of "inner-city joblessness ... reached during the first half of the 1990s was unprecedented."