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During a Democratic debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Jan. 21, 2008, John Edwards elaborated on his vision of "two Americas" and showed empathy toward an important bloc of Democratic primary voters by pointing out racial disparities in net worth.
It came during a discussion about whether subprime lenders were targeting the most economically vulnerable people. He said he didn't know their motivations, but added:
"What they have done is targeted the lowest income, most vulnerable families," Edwards said. "And anybody who's paying any attention to what's going on in America today understands, if you are African-American in this country today, you are likely to have a net worth of about 10 percent of what white families have.
"This is not an accident. I mean, we can go put our heads against the wall and pretend that the past never happened, pretend that we didn't live through decades of slavery, followed by decades of segregation, followed by decades of discrimination, which is still going on today."
It appears the former North Carolina senator was relying on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 2000, the median net worth of a household headed by a non-Hispanic white adult was $79,400. The median net worth of a household run by a black adult was $7,500. The figure for Hispanic households was $9,750. These figures are based on a 2003 report.
Net worth is measured as the total value of a household's financial assets — such as bank accounts, property and vehicles — minus the household's financial liabilities. Though the measurement is an oft-used indicator of financial health, it doesn't always tell the whole story because the amount of income generated by a household's assets is a key factor in maintaining a desired standard of living.
Still, because Edwards correctly cites Census data showing a tenfold disparity between black and white net worth, we judge his statement True.
UPDATE: This corrects our first version, which mistakenly used the term family income when we meant net worth.
U.S. Census Bureau, Net Worth and Asset Ownership of Households: 1998 and 2000, May 2003
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