A new study conducted by the Urban Institute found that the historical wealth disparities between Black and White residents in the D.C. metropolitan area have reached epic proportions. White households show a net worth 81 times that of Black households.

“The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital” study documented a process through which unstable economics or economic downturns, including the Great Recession and housing crises of 2007 and 2009, had a gross negative impact on Black families that outweighed and outlasted that of Whites. The loss of stability demonstrated an overall lack of fluid money – investments, set asides and savings – which exacerbated existing disparities, and kept Blacks from regaining their footing easily or at all.

“The wealth differential is staggering,” said William Darity Jr., a professor at Duke University, that collaborated on the study with the Urban Institute and New York’s New School. “With the findings we have shown that education does not close the racial wealth gap. That’s consistent with what we have found on the national level, but it’s far more dramatic here.”

In 2013 and 2014, White households in the D.C. area had a net worth of $284,000 while Black households had a net worth of $3,500, the report said. Hispanics had a net worth of $13,000. Net worth is the value of assets minus debt. And while the report did not necessarily point to the overall cause for the lack of net worth among D.C.’s Black residents, many in the area had their own suspicions and theories.

“Much of the wealth development among Whites has been handed down from one generation to another or is built upon long-term financial planning. Many African-Americans think in terms of today, right now, and immediately,” Ward 6 financial advisor LaQuinta Charles told the AFRO. “Whether it is excess spending or refusing to nest money for later, poor net worth sets Blacks up for financial instability parent to child because each generation is starting from zero. Instead of going on a cruise each year, make it every other year or every five years – invest on those off years so that your children can go to school.”

Racial Wealth Gap (Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)

The report traces the historical trends that have prevented Black families from attaining wealth in the region and across the country, from slavery to shortages in affordable housing. In 1840, for example, laws prohibited Black residents from owning businesses. More recently, eminent domain and decisions to build highways through historically Black neighborhoods in the District have hurt individual and community assets, the report stated. Additionally, funeral home attendant Roscoe Bailey told the AFRO, Black families tend to lose ground when deaths occur and wills have not expressly determined to whom money is inherited.

Nearly 70 percent of Blacks have no will or estate plan in place, placing both their ability to transfer wealth at risk, but also could allow assets to fall subject to probate. Probate can be extremely costly and leaves a financial burden to surviving family through attorney fees.

“Families come to us fighting over how things are to be disbursed and within five years, even with hundreds of thousands of dollars in hand, these families are broke again,” Bailey said. “No college fund has been put aside, no care orders for the elderly within the family, no investments into real estate, or other ventures that could help secure successive generations. These are financial tenets that need to follow children when they earn their first paycheck.”