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Professor Lori Martin's Book Explores Black Asset Poverty and the Roots of Racial Divide in America

Assistant Professor Lori Martin in the Department of Africana Studies repudiates commonly held beliefs that the U.S. is now a post-racial nation, despite the election of President Barack Obama, in her new book Black Asset Poverty and the Enduring Racial Divide.  

Martin argues that black asset poverty provides the most convincing evidence that socio-economic conditions sustaining the racial divide in the U.S. are still thriving. Although there is a plethora of studies and research on asset poverty, Martin’s book is unique in that she does not limit her analysis to black and white comparisons, rather she explores the differences and variations within black communities such as people identifying themselves as African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Africans. Asset Poverty is an individual’s lack of access to assets which is defined as any capital that can be converted to support a person for at least three months.   

“It’s not enough to say that some groups lack motivation or simply spend more than they save. To understand black asset poverty, I examined personal practices and structural forces that contribute to racial wealth inequality and black asset poverty.”  

Research has shown that blacks are overrepresented among the asset poor. Using both national data and case studies from New York City, Martin’s book delves into the historical context and events that have contributed to asset poverty and wealth inequality in the U.S. Martin also explores the effects of contemporary issues, such as gentrification and the Great Recession, on black asset poverty.   

Cedric Herring from University of Illinois at Chicago said that Martin’s book is "a great resource. . . . Martin provides insights into the many historical and structural factors that have kept African Americans from moving ahead economically."  

Martin hopes that her book will inspire scholars to rethink how they measure economic inequality and raise awareness about the causes and consequences of asset poverty.  The book should contribute to the ongoing discussion about whether or not the U.S. has migrated to a post-racial era.  

“I hope this book raises awareness of the problem of asset poverty in general and specifically how it relates to the black population. I hope it leads to a narrowing of the wealth gap between blacks and whites and an elimination of black asset poverty,” said Martin. 

Professor Martin has published in a number of peer-reviewed academic journals, including: Social Science Research, Journal of African-American Studies and Population Research and Policy Review. Dr. Martin specializes in Demography, Race and Ethnicity, Race and Wealth and Community Development.  

To purchase the book, click here.