The authors go a step further and discuss why the loans are larger—and it’s simply that a typical Black family has less wealth and is less able to contribute to the costs of college than a typical white family. Less help from family means more loans.

I found these discussions to be the most engaging parts of the paper. I’ve seen lots of material in the last year claiming the racial disparity is not a big problem and it’s all a liberal conspiracy to justify wealth transfer. I’ve also seen lots of material alleging that the wealth gap is one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest, of our time, and that those who don’t see it are racists.

The authors have their own opinions on those issues, but it’s notable that they don’t endorse particular legislative or governmental policy changes. Instead they link to some material about those ideas.

Financial planning cannot close the gap, but the planning community can help, and the authors point to several actions the Joneses can take to improve their wealth accumulation. Good financial planning advice can empower them to exercise some control over their futures.

The authors make five recommendations:

1. Attend a not-for-profit college, choose your major carefully and graduate. Another option—also with a great return on investment—is to attend a vocational or trade school to prepare you for work in a specific occupation. This results in higher incomes, the leading factor causing the gap.

2. Open a checking account, set up direct deposit for your paycheck and avoid using payday loans and check-cashing services that charge the equivalent of hundreds of percent in interest every year.

3. Open a retirement account as soon as possible and defer at least as much salary as your employer matches. Avoid early withdrawals or loans if at all possible. Ideally, aim to save 10% of your pretax income, and save more if you’re between the ages of 50 and 70.

4. Start investing early in low-cost stock index funds or a target-date retirement fund to maximize long-term growth. However, don’t invest money you might need in the next five years in stocks or stock-based mutual funds.

5. Use credit wisely: Use a debit card or pay off new credit card purchases every month. Take out a fixed-interest-rate mortgage, not an adjustable or subprime loan.