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College Is Not Enough: Higher Education Does Not Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Wealth Gaps


  • William R. Emmons
  • Lowell R. Ricketts


Differences in college and post-graduate degree attainment alone explain less than half of Black-White and Hispanic-White wealth gaps in a standard wealth regression. Differences in family structure and measures of luck such as income windfalls and inheritances explain even less. Measures of financial decisionmaking, such as the share of housing in total assets and debt ratios, are much more important.

Suggested Citation

  • William R. Emmons & Lowell R. Ricketts, 2017. "College Is Not Enough: Higher Education Does Not Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Wealth Gaps," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 99(1).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:00069
    DOI: 10.20955/r.2017.7-39

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fryer Jr., Roland G., 2011. "Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 10, pages 855-971, Elsevier.
    2. Pence Karen M., 2006. "The Role of Wealth Transformations: An Application to Estimating the Effect of Tax Incentives on Saving," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-26, July.
    3. Gustavo A. Suarez & Jeffrey P. Thompson, 2015. "Updating the Racial Wealth Gap," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-76, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Cited by:

    1. Bhaumik, Sumon K. & Gang, Ira N. & Yun, Myeong-Su, 2017. "Poverty's Deconstruction: Beyond the Visible," IZA Discussion Papers 11160, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Ashleigh Eldemire & Kimberly F Luchtenberg & Matthew M Wynter, 2022. "Does Homeownership Reduce Wealth Disparities for Low-Income and Minority Households?," Review of Corporate Finance Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(3), pages 465-510.
    3. Joanna Taylor & Tatjana Meschede, 2018. "Inherited Prospects: The Importance of Financial Transfers for White and Black College‐Educated Households’ Wealth Trajectories," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 77(3-4), pages 1049-1076, May.
    4. William R. Emmons & Ana Hernández Kent & Lowell R. Ricketts, 2019. "Is College Still Worth It? The New Calculus of Falling Returns," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 101(4), pages 297-329.
    5. Jonathan Fisher & Bradley L. Hardy, 2023. "Money matters: consumption variability across the income distribution," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 44(3), pages 275-298, September.
    6. Gale, William & Gelfond, Hilary & Fichtner, Jason, 2018. "How Will Retirement Saving Change by 2050? Prospects for the Millennial Generation," MPRA Paper 99196, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Eric Rodriguez, 2017. "Addressing the Wealth Gap for Hispanic Families," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 99(1), pages 53-58.
    8. Wang, Haining & Cheng, Zhiming & Smyth, Russell & Sun, Gong & Li, Jie & Wang, Wangshuai, 2022. "University education, homeownership and housing wealth," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    9. William G. Gale & Hilary Gelfond & Jason J. Fichtner & Benjamin H. Harris, 2021. "The Wealth of Generations, With Special Attention to the Millennials," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Distribution and Mobility of Income and Wealth, pages 145-174, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Awokuse, Titus & Chan, Nathan W. & González-Ramírez, Jimena & Gulati, Sumeet & Interis, Matthew G. & Jacobson, Sarah & Manning, Dale T. & Stolper, Samuel & Ando, Amy, 2023. "Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and Systemic Racism," RFF Working Paper Series 23-06, Resources for the Future.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination


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