Generally speaking, the American Dream goes something like this: go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, raise a family, and retire on your nest egg. We’ve all been told that we live in a meritocracy, so as long as we work hard and play by the rules, we’ll end up sipping Daiquiris on some exotic beach when we retire at 65.

Unfortunately, the rarely acknowledged fuel for all this dreaming is wealth. As opposed to the myth of meritocracy, the reality is that privileges grow as money is passed down generationally, typically when parents pay for college educations and provide sizeable down payments for first homes. One generation establishes the wealth of the next, and the next generation builds on the wealth of the former. But, what happens when parents don’t possess saved wealth?

A recent report entitled, The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide, from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP) shows that over time the gap between those with intergenerational wealth and those without it only widens. As of 2009, whites possessed 20 times the wealth of blacks. In practical terms this means that the average middle class black family has less access to resources than a white family with earnings below the poverty line.

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