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“Wealth is the paramount indicator of economic prosperity and well-being,” says the economist Darrick Hamilton. He’s right. Policy analysis tends to focus on income, but it is wealth that often determines whether we can send our kids to college, pay for an illness, quit a job, start a business or make a down payment on a home. Wealth is also the source of some of our deepest social inequalities: The top 10 percent of households in the U.S. own about 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the typical Black family has about one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family.
[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]
Hamilton is an economist at the New School who has spent decades studying the origins of the United States’ wealth disparities and how to close them. His “baby bonds” proposal — which would give poor children up to $50,000 in wealth by the time they become adults — has been put forward as national legislation by politicians like Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ayanna Pressley, and a state-level version of it is about to be established in Connecticut. So I asked him on the show to walk me through the structure of wealth in America today, the policy decisions undergirding that structure and the kinds of policies we could pass to dismantle it.
You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.
(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
This episode was produced by Annie Galvin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Mixing by Jeff Geld. The show’s production team also includes Emefa Agawu, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Nate Golden, Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.
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