The median wealth of Hispanic households fell 66 percent between 2005 and 2009, the largest decline for any racial or ethnic group over that period, a new report from the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends project finds.
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the report, Twenty to One: Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics (39 pages, PDF), identified plummeting house values as the principal cause for the erosion of wealth among all groups. However, because Hispanics derived nearly two-thirds of their net worth from home equity in 2005, and because a disproportionate number reside in states that were in the vanguard of the housing meltdown, they were hit hardest by the downturn.
Indeed, median household wealth among Hispanics fell from $18,359 in 2005 to $6,325 in 2009. Over the same period, median wealth declined 53 percent among African American households and 16 percent among white households. The study also found that 31 percent of Hispanic and 35 percent of African American households had zero or negative net worth in 2009, compared with 15 percent of white households, and that roughly a quarter of all Hispanic (24 percent) and African American (24 percent) households had no assets other than a vehicle in 2009, compared with just 6 percent of white households. As a result, the median wealth of white households is now twenty times that of African Americans and eighteen times that of Hispanics — the most lopsided ratios since the bureau started collecting such data twenty-five years ago.
"[The findings are] a very stark reminder of the high share of minorities who live at the economic margins of this country," Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, told the New York Times. "These data really show their economic vulnerability."