Decades after the Civil Rights Movement and the abolition of explicit racial discrimination, Black households in the United States still hold only a fraction of the wealth of White households. In 2017, the median White family held 14 times the median wealth of Black families, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

In this tool, we illustrate one contributing factor—the way that the small effects of racial bias can compound over lifetimes and generations to add up to large differences.

The following story offers illustrative examples of the ways in which this discrimination can affect people’s lives. In the tool below the story, change the inputs to explore how differing degrees of bias can compound to create inequities in education, income, and wealth.

Two Lives, Different Paths

Meet Daniel and Liam. They both live in the same suburban town and attend the same high school, where they both receive average grades. In their free time, they both love to read, swim, and watch suspense movies.

Daniel is Black. Liam is White.

We will follow along their life journeys—fictional scenarios that are broadly based on the relevant research.

Because the field is vast, these narratives do not perfectly represent the research. Rather, their stories are intended to be illustrative of how racial bias can compound and alter their otherwise similar personal trajectories.

In high school, both Daniel and Liam try out for the swim team, and they both make the cut. As they progress through the season, they excel on the team.

But balancing swim team and schoolwork is stressful, and they both begin to feel burnt out.

Daniel receives a phone call during class and takes out his phone to silence it. The teacher tells Daniel to hand over his phone for the rest of the day. Daniel gets upset and tosses his phone onto his teacher’s desk, inadvertently knocking over a cup of coffee onto assignments.

He is reported to the principal’s office, where he receives a week’s suspension—including being barred from swim practice—because the teacher took his behavior as a sign of aggression.

Liam receives a phone call in social studies class and takes out his phone to silence it. The teacher asks Liam to give her his phone. Liam uses profanity and rolls his eyes as he hands her the phone.

The White teacher gives Liam a stern warning but decides not to take further disciplinary action because he is typically a good student.

Read the full article about racial bias over lifetimes at RAND Corporation.