Who Has More in Their 401K? Whites in Their 30s or Blacks in Their 50s?

By Julianne Hing Feb 20, 2015

You get one guess. Even when workers of different races have similar access to 401k savings accounts, whites are able to put and keep more socked away than their black peers, writes Henry Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago, for Washington Post’s Wonkblog. The difference is so stark that as of 2010, white workers aged 20 through 40 have more saved in their 401k accounts than do black workers who are between the ages of 40 and 60. Those are the new findings of Stanford professors Kai Yuan Kuan, Mark Cullen and Sepideh Modrek.

At less than $20,000, young black workers under the age of 40 had the least money saved among Latino, black and white workers of different ages. Whites between 40 and 60, meanwhile, have the largest 401k accounts–in 2010 that’s $100,000. Researchers found that workers across different races made 401k contributions that were not wildly disparate, but that black and Latino workers were far more likely to need to withdraw from their accounts or need to take out loans against their savings.

All this is not so surprising, especially since economic inequity extends elsewhere. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, black workers with advanced degrees, for instance, make roughly what white workers with just a college degree do. Since the end of the Great Recession, the racial wealth gap has in fact only widened. In 2013, white households had a net worth 10 times that of Latino families, and 13 times that of black households.