October 3, 2018 / 5:18 PM / in 2 months

Fed's Harker says U.S. economic divisions must be addressed

(Reuters) - Some communities including black Americans still struggle under structural barriers despite an overall prosperous U.S. economy, Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick Harker said on Wednesday.

The centrist official did not comment on monetary policy in prepared remarks. He instead argued that the racial wealth gap, rising suburban poverty, the opioid epidemic, and unaffordable rental housing must be addressed.

“Even as the economy at large prospers, people in many communities face real economic challenges,” Harker told a Reinventing Our Communities conference in Baltimore.

While overall U.S. unemployment is low at 3.9 percent, the rate for blacks is routinely twice as high as that of whites. Harker pointed to whites’ median family wealth of $171,000 in 2016 compared to $17,600 for blacks and $20,700 for Hispanics.

“It is our job to question how those systems continue to perpetuate racially disparate outcomes that ultimately limit our economic potential,” he said.

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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