The recession widened the wealth gap between white households and Hispanic and black households, according to a new study by Pew Research Center. The report estimates that in 2009, white households had 19 times higher estimated median wealth than black households—compared to 11 times in 2004—and 15 times higher than Hispanic households—compared to 7 times in 2004.
President Obama, who has come under criticism for his handling of the economy, recognized the recession's impact on Latinos. Monday, in a speech to the Hispanic civil rights organization National Council of La Raza. Obama said his top priority was getting the country back to work. "The hundreds of thousands of construction workers—many of them Latino—who lost their jobs when the housing bubble burst, I want to put them back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and new schools and airports all across the country," Obama said. "There is work to be done. These workers are ready to do it." [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]
In the 2008 election, 95 percent of black voters chose Obama, along with 66 percent of Hispanic voters. The wealth gap could weigh heavily in the 2012 presidential race, potentially dampening some motivation for Obama's core supporters to get out the vote.
The Pew report, which comes from analysis of new Census Bureau data from 2009, shows that the median net worth among Hispanic households, adjusted for inflation, fell 66 percent from 2005 to 2009, and 53 percent among black households. The white household net worth fell only 16 percent. "The bursting of the housing market bubble in 2006 and the recession that followed from late 2007 to mid-2009 took a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites," the report says.
The wealth gap within racial and ethnic groups also increased between 2005 and 2009: The richest 10 percent of black, Hispanic, and white households each increased their share of their ethnic group's overall wealth, indicating, the report suggests, that wealthier households were affected less by the recession.