Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Intergenerational Transfer of Wealth

More than 25 years ago, I was one of 8 or 9 other professionals engaged in a discussion with a civil engineer and a civil rights attorney in Washington, DC on the topic of "intergenerational transfer" of wealth. It was the unanimously determined that the concept of intergenerational transfer was rare or did not exist in Black America. I will concede that the word rare is the best choice since my family is in possession of land (currently in the fight of our lives to preserve the majority of the original property) passed to us by a patriarch who purchased the asset in 1870. The "transfer" is income generating in nature so, there have been several attempts to "relieve" us of this precious gift from our ancestors.

In an article Race, Wealth, and Intergenerational Poverty, written by (, a "wealth gap" exists largely due to the lack of assets transferred from generation to generation for African (Black) Americans. Consider the following excerpt:

"Apart from the national failure to endow ex-slaves with the promised 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War, blacks were deprived systematically of property, especially land, accumulated between 1880 and 1910 by government complicity and fraud as well as seizures by white terrorists. During the first three decades of the 20th century, white rioters destroyed prosperous black communities from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Restrictive covenants, redlining, and general housing and lending discrimination also inhibited blacks from accumulating wealth.

Given the importance of intergenerational transfers of wealth and past and present barriers preventing black wealth accumulation, private action and market forces alone cannot close an unjust racial wealth gap -- public-sector intervention is necessary."

Twenty-five years later, today, the discussion of too little intergenerational transfer of wealth/assets is just as relevant. I encourage my friends and family to engage in the discussion and start a project to help eliminate this "wealth gap". We have a responsibility to our children and also to future generations. Or maybe we should justify or interpret I Timothy, 5: 8 to fit our needs: "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." KJV