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America Is on a Road to a Better Economy. But Better for Whom?

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Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, has repeatedly cited racial and other disparities as a reason for trying to revive the economy as quickly and completely as possible. People at the bottom of the income ladder enjoyed just a few years of decent gains before the pandemic cut the recovery prematurely short. The faster we can get back there, the sooner they can begin to enjoy those gains again. “Those who have historically been left behind stand the best chance of prospering in a strong economy with plentiful job opportunities,” Powell said in a speech at a National Community Reinvestment Coalition conference in early May. “Our recent history highlights both the benefits of a strong economy and the severe costs of a weak one.”

Low-income families are starting in a much different place from where they were in the last recovery. Indeed, American households are, on average, in the best financial shape in decades. Debt levels, excluding home…

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