Since the 1960s, household-income growth for African Americans has outpaced that of whites. Median adjusted household income for African Americans is now 59.2 percent that of whites, up slightly from 55.3 percent in 1967 (though in dollar terms the gap has widened).
But those gains haven't led to any narrowing of the wealth gap between the races. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, the median net worth for African-American households in 2011 ($6,446) was lower than it was in 1984 ($7,150), while white households' net worth was almost 11 percent higher. High-earning married African-American households have, on average, less wealth than low-earning married white households.
Exactly why income gains haven't translated into wealth gains for African Americans is something of a puzzle. Researchers have identified several possible factors – less intergenerational inheritance, higher unemployment and lower incomes, differing rates and patterns of homeownership, marriage and college education – without reaching any consensus on their relative importance. There is little understanding of why the black-white wealth gap exists, despite an almost embarrassing number of potential explanations."