New data shows soaring wealth gap among races

Wealth gap between whites, minorities widens
Wealth gap between whites, minorities widens

The tough economy isn't affecting everyone the same way. New census data out today shows the "wealth gaps" between whites, blacks and Hispanics are the widest they've been since the government started keeping track 25 years ago. CBS news correspondent Ben Tracy has the story of two families living in two very different worlds.

Sharron Bryant-Simmons calls herself a shoe-a-holic. She used to spend freely on her footwear. But in 2005, she was laid off by UCLA, where she worked for 20 years.

"I thought I could weather the storm," said Bryant-Simmons, "but then after getting out there and going on various interviews it was something totally different."

Her home value dropped $100,000 and she depleted her savings.

"It has been almost a living hell," she said.

It is an experience shared by many minorities. In 1995, the average white household had a net worth 7 times that of black and Hispanic families. Now a new study of census data finds the wealth gap has become a chasm.

White households are now worth 20 times that of blacks and 18 times more than Hispanics. The median white household is worth $113,000, Hispanics about $6,000 and blacks about $5,700, according to the Pew Research Center.

The main asset minority families own is their home. As values have plunged, so have their net worths. White families are more likely to also own stocks and retirement accounts, which have rebounded with the stock market.

That's partly why Hispanics have lost 66 percent of their net worth and blacks 53 percent, while whites lost just 16 percent.

Rick and Lori Owens' investments have already recovered. Back in 2008, they also benefitted from the cratering real estate market and found a great deal on a house put up for auction.

"We're in a home that we love and a neighborhood that we love, but you know it breaks my heart for the people that have lost their homes and lost their jobs," said Lori.

After two years, Sharron Bryant-Simmons finally found a new job, but it pays $40,000 less.

"It is what it is at this present time," she said, "but I don't plan to stay in this rut."

But to experts, it could be a decade before the wealth gap closes.

  • Ben Tracy

    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.