Economic downturn took greatest toll on Hispanics' household wealth, research finds

NEW YORK — The bursting of the housing market bubble and the recession that followed took a greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites, especially Hispanics, whose median household wealth plunged 66% from 2005 to 2009, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.

The median household wealth among Hispanics fell from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,325 in 2009. The percentage drop — 66% — was the largest among all racial and ethnic groups, according to the new report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends project. During the same period, median household wealth declined 53% among black households and 16% among white households.

As a result of these declines, the typical black household had $5,677 in wealth (assets minus debts) in 2009; the typical Hispanic household had $6,325 in wealth; and the typical white household had $113,149, according to the data.

These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest in the quarter century since the government first published such data, according to Pew Research, and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession.

The Pew Research report, which provides the first look at how the Great Recession impacted household wealth, found that plummeting house values were the principal cause of the erosion in wealth among all groups. However, because Hispanics derived nearly two-thirds of their net worth in 2005 from home equity and a disproportionate share reside in states that were in the vanguard of the housing meltdown, Hispanics were hit hardest by the housing market downturn.

Among the report's other key findings:

  • About one-third of Hispanic (31%) and black (35%) households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15% of white households. In 2005, the comparable shares had been 23% for Hispanics, 29% for blacks and 11% for whites;

  • About one-quarter of all Hispanic (24%) and black (24%) households in 2009 had no assets other than a vehicle, compared with 6% of white households. These percentages are little changed from 2005; and

  • During the period under study, wealth disparities also increased within the Hispanic community. The top 10% of Hispanic households saw their share of all Hispanic household wealth rise from 56% in 2005 to 72% in 2009.

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