Some pre-debate advice for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: Don’t rush to trot out your charge that Donald Trump is the first racist President in American history. Because if Mr. Trump has been briefed with any competence, two recent official economic reports have just come out making clear that when it comes to African Americans and Hispanic Americans, – at least before the outbreak of the CCP Virus that has hit minorities especially hard for longstanding structural reasons – the incumbent’s economic record compares quite favorably to that of the Obama administration for which Biden rode shotgun.
The evidence we’ll look at today drawn from the latest edition of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, contains arguably the most important finding of all: The wealth gap separating African Americans and Hispanic Americans on the one hand from white Americans on the other narrowed more during Mr. Trump’s first three years in office than during the final three years of the Obama administration. (RealityChek regulars know that such time frames provide the best apples-to-apples data needed for comparisons, since they came right next to each other in the same economic cycle – in this case, the post-2009 expansion.)
This racial wealth gap is often described as the most damning indictment of the nation’s longstanding failure to generate equal economic opportunity, since the wealth created by one generation can be passed down to future generations, and thereby boost the odds that beneficiaries are cushioned against major economic and financial stress, and foster all the self-reinforcing social as well as economic advantages flowing from such achievement of the American Dream.
The numbers come both from the Fed’s new survey, which covers the 2016-2019 period, and its previous survey, which covered the 2013-2016 period, and here they are, starting with the growth in median family net worth (the Fed’s preferred measure of wealth) for all American families, for non-Hispanic white families, for non-Hispanic black families, and for Hispanic families.
During the final three Obama years, in pre-inflation dollars, this net worth increased as follows for the aforementioned three groups pre-tax
for all U.S. families: +16.25 percent
for white non-Hispanics: +16.80 percent
for black non-Hispanics: +29.41 percent
for Hispanics: +45.77 percent
As a result, median wealth for black non-Hispanic and Hispanic families as a share of median family wealth for their white counterparts rose as follows:
black non-Hispanic families: 9.29 percent 10.29 percent
Hispanic families: 9.70 percent 12.11 percent
Alternatively put, black non-Hispanic families closed the wealth gap with white non-Hispanic families by 10.76 percent, and Hispanic families by 24.85 percent. No denying that’s progress.
And the Trump record through 2019 in comparison? We’ll start again with the increases in pre-tax median family net worth from 2016 until then:
for all U.S. families: +17.58 percent
for white non-Hispanics: +3.46 percent
for black non-Hispanics : +32.42 percent
for Hispanics: +65.30 percent
So during the first three Trump years, median family wealth overall grew faster than during the final three Obama years, and minority families far outgained white families in this regard. Moreover, this was especially true for Hispanic families, who belong to an ethnic group Mr. Trump is often accused of despising.
That this minority family outperformance bettered that achieved during the most analogous Obama period comes through even more clearly from the following table, which shows how minority families’ net worth grew as a share of white family net worth between 2016 and 2019:
black non-Hispanic families: 10.01 percent 12.81 percent
Hispanic families: 12.04 percent 19.23 percent
Again, alternatively put, during the Trump years, these results mean that black non-Hispanic families closed the wealth gap with white families by 27.97 percent, and Hispanic families by 59.72 percent. So both groups made much more relative progress during the Trump supposedly racist and xenophobic Trump administration (pre-CCP Virus) than during the supposedly racially enlightened Obama administration.
The Trump record isn’t as good when it comes to another measure of economic peformance – pre-tax family incomes and their growth. But any fair-minded observer would have to agree that it’s more than respectable, especially considering the President’s reputation among so many of his opponents.
Once more, let’s start with the Obama record on this score between 2013 and 2016. (These results aren’t adjusted for inflation, either. During these years, median family income grew as follows for the groups in question:
for all U.S. families: +9.56 percent
for white non-Hispanics: +6.44 percent
for black non-Hispanics: +9.94 percent
for Hispanics: +14.93 percent
As a result, median incomes for black non-Hispanic and Hispanic families as a share of median income for their white counterparts rose as follows:
black non-Hispanic families: 56.00 percent 57.84 percent
Hispanic families: 58.26 percent 62.91 percent
So the income gap with white non-Hispanic families shrank by 1.13 percent for black families and by 7.98 percent for Hispanic families. These relative gains generally were far smaller than those registered for wealth, but they were gains all the same
At first glance, it’s clear that the Trump record between 2016 and 2019 lagged the Obama era progress. Here’s how family incomes rose then for the groups concerned:
for all U.S. families: +4.64 percent
for white non-Hispanics: +6.00 percent
for black non-Hispanics: +7.00 percent
for Hispanics: -0.49 percent
The same conclusion flows from examining the changes in minority groups’ family income as a share of non-white Hispanic families’ income:
black non-Hispanic families: 57.76 percent 58.41 percent
Hispanic families: 62.83 percent 58.99 percent
In fact, Hispanic families actually lost ground on this front.
And not surprisingly, the income gap between Hispanic families and white non-Hispanic families widened by 6.11 percent during these Trump years, while that between black and white non-Hispanic families narrowed by much less than during the final three Obama years (1.13 percent versus 3.29 percent).
These Fed figures hardly show that President Trump, as he likes to claim, has done more for African Americans than any President in history Lincoln aside, or that Hispanic Americans have been special beneficiaries of his policies. But they do show impressive progress for minority groups and, perhaps more important, progress that compares well with such achievements under the nation’s first African American President.
Therefore, Biden (and other Trump opponents) could well be right about the President’s racism and xenophobia when all considerations are taken into account. But if so, he’s clearly the strangest racist and xenophobe in U.S. history – a conclusion that will be supported when RealityChek turns next to the new poverty statistics and another set of income figures just issued by the Census Bureau. .