You read that correctly.
A new study finds that the median wealth for single black women in America is a shockingly low $5.
“Median” refers to that figure that divides a population into two equal halves. In this case, a $5 median wealth means that 50% of America’s single black women have total assets of more than $5, while the other 50% have assets less than $5.
Wealth, or net worth, measures the total of one’s assets (cash in the bank, stocks, bonds and real estate) minus debts (home mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans). For all working-age black women 18 to 64, the financial picture is bleak. Their median household wealth is only $100. Hispanic women in that age group have a median wealth of $120.
The study found that being married makes a big difference in a woman’s net worth. Married or cohabitating white women have a median wealth of $167,500. Married or cohabitating black women have a median net worth of $31,500.
The reasons behind the daunting financial challenges black women face are numerous and complex. Among them are:
- Being single: Esther Bush, executive director of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, said that in Pittsburgh more than 70% of African-American families are headed by single women. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, more than four out of 10 families headed by single mothers in Pittsburgh and more than one in three in Pennsylvania, live in poverty. In Pittsburgh and across the country, the financial burdens of single parenthood fall mostly on women, but black women are more likely to endure the work and responsibility of raising children on their own. They are more likely to be the backbone of their families and communities, with greater responsibilities to support struggling friends and families.
- High unemployment and high incarceration rates for black men also lower the likelihood of single black women finding a partner to help build a more secure financial future.
- In a 2008 study of black women and their money, the ING Foundation found that black women — who frequently manage the assets of their households — financially support friends, family and their houses of worship to a much greater degree than the general population.
- Black women also are more likely to be employed in jobs and industries — such as service occupations — with lower pay and less access to health insurance.
All of which means that black women also rely most heavily on Social Security because they are less likely to have personal savings, retirement accounts or company pensions. Their Social Security benefits are likely to be lower, too, because of their low earnings.