IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

“Family Achievements?”: How a College Degree Accumulates Wealth for Whites and Not For Blacks


  • Meschede, Tatjana

    (Brandeis University)

  • Taylor, Joanna

    (Brandeis University)

  • Mann, Alexis

    (Brandeis University)

  • Shapiro, Thomas M.

    (Brandeis University)


A college education has been linked to higher life-time earnings and better economic achievements, so the expectation would be that it is also linked to higher net wealth for everybody. However, recent analyses challenge this hypothesis and find that the expectation holds true for White college-educated households but not for Black college-educated households. To examine this finding further and investigate the role of family financial transfers in household net wealth, the authors perform a mixed-method study using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for a 24-year period, 1989-2013, and qualitative data from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy Levering Mobility study. Their results confirm that White college-educated households amass wealth, whereas the wealth of their Black counterparts declines. The authors also estimate the impact of just inheritance or large financial gifts and find that they decrease the existing racial wealth gap by nearly $40,000, or 20 percent. Further analyses demonstrate that White college graduates are significantly and substantially more likely to provide and receive financial support for education and/or a home purchase, while Black college graduates are significantly more likely to financially support their parents. Multivariate regression analysis identifies receipt of financial support for education and a home purchase as a positive contributor to net wealth and financial help for parents as a negative contributor to net wealth, disadvantaging Black college-educated households, who are less likely to receive and more likely to give financial support. Longitudinal interview data collected in the Institute on Assets and Social Policy Leveraging Mobility study illustrate the mechanisms of family financial transfers and their relationship to wealth accumulation, contrasting the White and Black households’ experiences. The discussion underscores the need to better understand intergenerational wealth and wealth sharing within families when studying wealth outcomes and highlights the role of family financial wealth transfers in creating opportunities for those who benefit the most—mostly White college-educated households.

Suggested Citation

  • Meschede, Tatjana & Taylor, Joanna & Mann, Alexis & Shapiro, Thomas M., 2017. "“Family Achievements?”: How a College Degree Accumulates Wealth for Whites and Not For Blacks," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 99(1), pages 121-137.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:00077
    DOI: 10.20955/r.2017.121-137

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    File Function:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • 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


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:00077. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Anna Oates). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.