• Centuries of discrimination have created a cavernous wealth gap between Black and white Americans. 
  • Today, Black Americans own an estimated one-tenth the wealth of white Americans — $17,150 for Black families compared to $171,000 for white families.
  • This gap is not only bad for Black people, it’s bad for the US economy, too.
  • Researchers estimate that the racial wealth gap has cost the US economy $16 trillion since 2000. If the gap closed today, the GDP would see a $5 trillion boost in the next five years.
  • Read more stories from Business Insider’s “Inside the racial wealth gap” series »

Since the start of slavery, racism has cost Black Americans an estimated $70 trillion. Today, thanks to centuries of discrimination, the racial wealth gap between Black and white Americans is cavernous.

In 2016, the Brookings Institution estimated that Black Americans own about one-tenth the wealth of white Americans — $17,150 for Black families compared to $171,000 for white families. The gap persists at every income level: Among the top 10% of earners, the median net worth of white families is $1,789,300, whereas a Black family earning the same income has a median net worth of $343,160.

It goes without saying that this is bad for Black families and individuals. But this type of racial inequality is bad for the broader US economy, too.

What the racial wealth gap costs the US economy

In a Zoom panel discussion hosted by Business Insider last month, experts from a variety of fields — higher education, business, and financial planning — discussed the costs of the racial wealth gap and how to close it.

Dania Francis, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston and co-author of “The Economics of Reparations,” illuminated the cost of racial inequality to the US economy.

BEREA, Ohio — The Berea City School District Board of Education passed in July a resolution stressing the need for diversity, equity and inclusion, and rejecting all forms of racism and discrimination. One of the first steps involves listening and respecting others’ perspectives.

At the Sept. 21 board meeting, Berea-Midpark graduates shared stories of the racism they encountered as students in the district. Their recollections were uncomfortable to hear, but Board President Ana Chapman said it is necessary “to make the positive changes we’ve needed for a long time.”

“The purpose of this resolution, and the actions surrounding it, was to make sure we are listening and all voices are being heard, especially those of the underrepresented, be it by the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their special educational needs, or their sexual orientation,” Chapman said. “The district can’t go back and change the past, but we can listen and make the future better.”

Summer Husein, a 2020 graduate, remembered being treated differently because of her Palestinian heritage and Muslim faith. She said school food choices were limited due to her religion, and she felt “so left out” when Christian holidays were discussed in class. Husein began wearing a scarf in eighth grade.

“Some students gave me weird nicknames,” Husein said. “I was a ‘terrorist.’ I was called the wife, and daughter, of Osama bin Laden. While they were harmful (statements), I was more confused than ever.

“I grew up with these people,” she continued. “Why did they now view me differently? Because I wear a scarf on my head, and my religion and ethnicity were not visible (before).”

Emily, Erica and Callie Truong, graduates from 2013, 2016 and 2017, sent a letter to Chapman, which she read aloud. They acknowledged it “was not always easy” being an