Ariel Capital’s 2020 Black Investor Survey: African America’s Continued Fight To Close The Investment Gap

“On March 23, 2020, the S&P 500 fell 2.9%. In all, the index dropped nearly 34% in about a month, wiping out three years’ worth of gains for the market. It all led to a 76.1% surge for the S&P 500 and a shocking return to record heights. This run looks to be one of the, if not the, best 365-day stretches for the S&P 500 since before World War II. Based on month-end figures, the last time the S&P 500 rose this much in a 12-month stretch was in 1936, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.” – CBS News

Ariel Capital released their 2020 Black Investor Survey and the results show that there is reason to be pessimistic today, but potentially optimistic for tomorrow. The survey focuses on middle class African American and European American households earning over $50K in 2019. Some key financial points outside of this survey that should be taken into context though are poverty for African American stands at 21.2 percent versus 9.0 percent for European Americans. This high rate of poverty for African Americans means that middle class African Americans, as noted in the survey, are more likely to have high levels of assistance to family and friends which provides a damper on higher investing capabilities. These high levels of poverty are highly reflective of the median wealth gap between African and European Americas, $24,100 versus $188,200, respectively. African America continues to suffer from weak institution building and therefore the ability for its economic and financial ecosystem to strengthen continues to be suffocated. Firms like Ariel Capital and other African American financial institutions need more investment and support from other African American institutions, like HBCUs, in order to scale and create more employment, wealth, and economic opportunities beyond the grassroots level.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The deep-rooted gap in stock market participation between the groups persists, with 55% of Black Americans and 71% of white Americans reporting stock market investments.
  • 63% of Black Americans under the age of 40 now participate in the stock market, equal to their white counterparts.
  • Ownership rates of 401(k) plans are now similar between Black and white Americans (53% vs. 55%).
  • White 401(k) plan participants put 26% more per month toward their retirement accounts than Black 401(k) plan participants ($291 vs. $231).
  • Black Americans are less likely than white Americans to own almost every kind of financial vehicle, with the exception of whole life insurance, which is favored in the Black community.
  • They are also less likely than white Americans to have written wills, financial plans, or retirement plans.
  • For Black Americans, disparities grow every month; while they save $393 per month, white Americans are saving 76% more ($693 per month).
  • Black Americans are also far less likely to have inherited (23% vs. 51%) or expect to inherit wealth (15% vs. 35%).
  • Black Americans are less likely to work with financial advisors (21% vs. 45% of whites).
  • Student loan delay or deferral was reported as being three times more common among Black Americans (16%) than whites (5%).
  • More than twice as many Black 401(k) participants (12% vs. 5%) borrowed money from their retirement accounts.
  • Almost twice as many Black Americans (18% vs. 10%) dipped into an emergency fund.
  • And 9% of Black Americans (vs. 4% of white Americans) say they asked their family or friends for financial support in 2020, while 18% of Black Americans and 13% of white Americans acknowledged giving financial support to family and friends last year.
  • Among Black Americans, 10% discussed the stock market with their families growing up, while 37% discuss the stock market with their families now (compared to 23% and 36%, respectively, for white Americans).
The chart above tracks the participation in the stock market through individual stocks, mutual funds, or ETFS. For African and European Americans, 2020 is an all-time low of participation since tracking began in January 1998. However, the gap of participation has closed from 24 percentage points in 1998 to 16 percentage points in 2020. Primarily due to the all-time low of European America’s participation falling by 10 percentage points and African America’s falling by only 2 percentage points. The closest the gap has been was in 2001 and 2002 when it was 10 percentage points and in 2002 saw African America break through 70 percentage points the only time in the survey’s history when we reached 74 percent.

HBCUs can play a significant role in closing the investment gap by introducing students to HBCU alumni who have gone on to become investors and financial advisors – thus circulating both intellectual and financial capital within the HBCU ecosystem. Even more so, they can assist in ensuring students set up investment accounts like a Roth IRA during their freshmen year and throughout matriculation. The earlier students are engaged in investing the more compounding can work for them over their lifetime which in turn makes for wealthier alumni, larger future donations, stronger African American communities, and more value proposition for HBCUs to promote within the African American community.

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