WELLESLEY NEIGHBORS SPEAKER SERIES
Toxic Inequality: Economic Inequality and Racial Injustice, Wrought Ugly Politics
Professor Thomas Shapiro
Wellesley College Club
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Economic inequality is at historic highs, but its impact differs by race. African Americans’ net wealth is just a tenth that of white Americans. In our increasingly diverse nation, wealth disparities must be understood in tandem with racial inequities—a dangerous combination or “toxic inequality.”
Toxic inequality reveals how these forces trap families in place. Shapiro’s longitudinal research vividly documents the Great Recession’s toll on parents and children, the ways families use financial assets, and the real reasons some families build wealth while others struggle in poverty. The structure of our neighborhoods, workplaces, and tax code—much more than individual choices—push some forward and hold others back. Toxic inequality has been forged by history and preserved by policy, and only bold, race-conscious reforms can move us toward a more just society.
Dr. Thomas Shapiro is Director, Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy at The Heller School for Social Policy, Brandeis University. Professor Shapiro's primary interest is in racial inequality and public policy. He is a leader in the wealth and race field with a particular focus on closing the racial wealth gap. With Dr. Melvin Oliver, he wrote the award-winning Black Wealth/White Wealth, which received the 1997 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association. The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality, was widely reviewed, and he co-authored a groundbreaking study, The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide. In 2011 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the wealth gap in South Africa. Dr. Shapiro’s widely anticipated book Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, & Threatens Our Future was released March 2017.