Making Black Reparations in America

This grant will support research and outreach to address questions about the feasibility of paying reparations to Black American descendants of persons who were enslaved in what is now the United States.

The vast gap in wealth held by Black and White Americans is a major source of inequality for children and families. According to the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, the average level of Black household wealth is nearly $850,000 less than the average level of White household wealth. And whereas one quarter of White households have a net worth over $1 million, only 4 percent of Black households have reached that threshold. In previous work, Darity established that these gaps are a direct result of the appropriation of the labor of enslaved persons, as well as overt and hidden forms of discrimination that persist long after the abolition of slavery in the U.S. This study examines the extent to which reparations are a feasible and practical strategy for addressing such long-term, structural inequality. Darity and colleagues at the Cook Center will conduct a series of macro-simulations to investigate the effects of different configurations of a Black reparations policy. The simulations will gauge not only the impact on the economic well-being of Black children and their families, but also the economy-wide ramifications for all Americans. The project comes amid increased interest in reparations as a mechanism to reduce racial inequality: Whereas a 2004 study reported that only 4 percent of Americans endorsed reparations, today that figure is 30 percent, and more than half of Americans would favor a Congressional commission to study the legacy of slavery and ongoing systemic racism directed at Black Americans.

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