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Yellen, in MLK Address, Says Economy ‘Never Worked Fairly for Black Americans’

By Simon Kennedy

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen marked Martin Luther King Day by declaring that the U.S. economy has “never worked fairly for Black Americans — or really for any American of color.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (L), photo from Bloomberg/Photo of couple: Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

In a speech prepared to be delivered to a breakfast hosted by the National Action Network, Yellen said the Biden administration had taken steps to change that, including by taking equity into account when crafting pandemic relief programs and by making the Treasury Department more inclusive.

“Of course, no one program and no one administration can make good on the hopes and aspirations that Dr. King had for our country,” Yellen said. “There is still much more work Treasury needs to do to narrow the racial wealth divide.”

A government report this month showed the unemployment rate for Black Americans rose to 7.1% in December, more than twice the jobless level of Whites, which decreased to 3.2% that month. 

Wealth held by White households rose to $98.6 trillion in the third quarter of 2020, according to Federal Reserve data. That amounts to 84.6% of the total, while, the portion of overall wealth held by Black Americans fell to 3.8% and for Hispanic Americans it dropped to 2.1%.

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