Michael Barone: Violent crime is a confiscatory wealth tax.
As for residential real estate, despite open housing laws and the dispersion of many blacks into non-black-majority neighborhoods, most American blacks still live in majority-black neighborhoods with higher rates of violent crime than other neighborhoods. Violent crime depresses housing values.
How much? Not just marginally. The gap that Mead cites, $117,000 median wealth for whites and just $11,700 for blacks, is not dissimilar to the gap in housing values for similar structures between many black neighborhoods in Detroit (to take one example) and one of its modest-income largely white suburbs. Compare Zillow values for Roseville in Macomb County ($119,331) to, just a couple of miles away, Detroit ZIP code 48234 ($27,541).
“Violence and crime are a confiscatory tax on what people would otherwise earn and accumulate over a lifetime,” I wrote in a Washington Examiner column earlier this month. It is a fact, tragic and regrettable, that blacks are much more likely than non-blacks to commit violent crimes, and violent crime rates in heavily black neighborhoods tend to be much higher than average. It’s also a very costly problem because homebuyers are simply not willing to spend as much money (and to invest as much in what may be their greatest opportunity for wealth accumulation) on houses in neighborhoods with violent crime rates 10 times or 15 times higher than the alternatives.
To be sure, the sharp reduction in violent crime rates since 1990 has increased the housing values in heavily black neighborhoods, thus increasing wealth accumulation by black Americans over that period. Further reductions in violent crime rates could go some distance toward enabling black Americans to accumulate wealth and perhaps narrow the wealth gap that Mead describes.
Increasing violent crime rates, one possible result of the Black Lives Matter protests, violent rioting, and consequent police reticence, could have the opposite effect, as it did after the violent rioting of half a century ago.
Black livelihoods matter.
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