The South Bronx Has Something to Say: Symposium Keynote

My book, The Whiteness of Wealth, was recently published by Crown. It looks at how systemic racism and federal tax policies compound our racial wealth gap. My book is based on my research that began with an invitation in the mid-1990s from Karen Brown and Mary Louise Fellows, who were editing a book called Taxing America. My chapter, entitled “The Marriage Bonus/Penalty in Black and White,” looked at how husbands and wives contributed their income to the household and the impact that the joint return provisions, or the operation of a joint return, had on their tax bill. The chapter talked about how white married couples were more likely to have one wage earner in the paid labor market and one stay-at-home spouse. Those households received a tax cut when they got married—we call that the marriage bonus. On the other hand, couples where husbands and wives earn equal amounts of income do not get a tax cut; rather, their taxes increase—we call that the marriage penalty. I further explored the marriage penalty in a subsequent article entitled Race, Class, and Gender Essentialism in Tax Literature. While at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, I looked at original data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which showed that, regardless of income, Black married couples pay higher taxes than white married couples because Black married couples are more likely to live in equal wage-earning households.