Paul L. Caron

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Racialized Tax Inequity: Wealth, Racism, And The U.S. Tax System

Palma Joy Strand (Creighton) & Nicholas A. Mirkay (Hawaii), Racialized Tax Inequity: Wealth, Racism, and The U.S. System of Taxation, 15 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol’y 265 (2020):

As a whole, the U.S. tax system (federal, state and local) since 1980 has served more and more to increase racialized wealth inequality. The tax system is today operating to entrench the system of advantage based on race that centuries of racial exploitation and unequal access to wealth created. As the future face of the nation becomes less White, the U.S. tax system as a whole and the anti-tax rhetoric that has fueled its shift from progressive to regressive are driving economic inequality and racial inequity. More deeply, the tax system is inhibiting broad-scale public investment in the primary resource of the future: human capital.

This article presents a timely perspective of big-picture trends in federal and state taxation over the past 40 years — both a long-term sociological view (the why) of the historical racialization of wealth and a critical tax view (the how) of the shift from taxes on wealth to taxes on income to taxes on consumption.

This shift from greater to less progressivity in taxes disproportionately benefits Whites while disproportionately burdening Blacks and other People of Color. Instead of focusing on the equity of a particular deduction or preferential tax rate, we view taxes holistically and systemically, with a focus on state and local taxes that is typically not addressed in critical tax literature. Before systematic changes can be made to tax systems to combat wealth inequality, an acknowledgement of the racialization of wealth inequality is a fundamental first step.

Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink


I went to government schools in a fancy Maryland suburb and they were expensive but terrible. Very disrupted.

Would the authors please share how free market (or other) incentives would make more, um, "public investment in human capital" actually create opportunity, not just steal even more of the money that might finally get us an education at the colleges they like (or, say, the Catholic schools some of my lower-income friends have to scrimp for their kids to attend)?

Posted by: Anand Desai | Sep 2, 2019 6:55:30 AM

If what is called for is a holistic & systematic examination, it should cover not only transfer payment to the government [taxes] but also transfer taxes from the government and an examination of the benefits flowing from government spending as well so the total effect of all transfers and spending can be reckoned. A focus on taxes alone is arbitrary and narrow.

Posted by: Joseph W. Mooney III | Sep 2, 2019 3:58:00 AM

There is a lot of original work on this subject, Whitfield and Moran etc., more rhetoric doesn't necessarily add to it

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Sep 2, 2019 3:34:38 AM