Calculating the Cost of Reperations


Dr. William Darity, economist and professor at Duke University, is one of the advising economists for the California Reparations Task Force. Dr. Darity has conducted extensive research on the 

Headshot of Black woman named Trinity

Trinity Allen, Summer 2022 Intern

economic aspect of reparations for the majority of his career. I had the pleasure of interviewing him on his current work with the task force.

To understand the framework the task force is utilizing, two integral parts must be considered: responsibility for harms and availability of tangible resources. Dr. Darity stated that a priority of a reparations plan would generally be to eliminate the racial wealth gap. However, this model is restricted by the resources of the state. 


The amount of oppression African Americans have endured in this nation is almost innumerable. From issues of police brutality to welfare inaccessibility, there are a multitude of racial disparities within the nation. The advising economists of the California reparations task force have been given the difficult task of estimating the price of restitution for these harms.  


Cost of Specific Harm 

In the state of California, Dr. Darity stated  “the expense of eliminating the racial wealth differential for approximately 2 million eligible Black residents would be somewhere in the vicinity of 700 billion dollars and the state’s total budget is 270 billion dollars or so.”  In addition to the lack of resources, Dr. Darity noted that the racial wealth gap is the product of national policy, and is not necessarily the responsibility of the state to solve.

Accordingly, the task force opted to argue that the state should compensate people for harms specific and unique to California. Therefore, the approach the economists are taking is not to refute the harms of the nation but to atone for the harms of the state. A focus on the state’s harms is wise and strategic, and will hopefully prove more persuasive to legislators as it specifies how the state alone has abided in disenfranchising African Americans. This approach is also more proactive in creating sustainable economic opportunities alongside monetary compensation. Dr. Darity attested to this stating that the task force’s approach would be similar to the restitution achieved in the Bruce’s Beach case. 


California Discrimination: Bruce Beach

California has a long history of discriminatory practices regarding eminent domain. The Bruce’s Beach case is one of many. The Bruce’s Beach was a black-owned property seized by the state through eminent domain to build a park in the early 1900s. The park was never built and the property remained dormant, and the family received not even a fraction of what they were owed for the damages. Recently, the state of California returned the property to the descendants of the Bruces. 

This is a great example of what the task force plans to do to address specific harms done by California which warrant rightful compensation. Dr. Darity stated the family should be owed more because they were denied the property for so long. He stated that they should be paid compensation for the years of denial, in addition to the return of the property. 


Housing Discrimination

This avenue of reparations concerning property is quite efficacious given the issues of housing disparities within California. Issues such as the disproportionate rates of homelessness and present-redlining with the area. African Americans constitute 6.5% of the California population but account for almost 40% of the state’s homeless individuals. Regarding the issue of redlining, communities of African American homeowners experience discriminatory appraisals on the value of their homes because of the neighboring African American residents. These issues regarding housing are prevalent in California. But assigning compensation is not always a straightforward process with housing disparities. Dr. Darity stated the economists work to address the tangible applications of an issue alongside the effects it may have on an individual’s quality of life when assigning monetary cost. 

Accounting for Lasting Effects

This discussion revealed the approach of the economic advisors as a whole. Dr. Darity was very adamant about not only addressing wrongdoing, but accounting for the lasting effects it had on other facets of an individual’s life. The approach of the advising economist seemed to be purposeful in constructing well-rounded solutions. Their approach necessitated proper restitution be given to those who are overdue “40 acres and a Mule,” as they account for the cost of reparations.


Cimini, Kate. “Black People Disproportionately Homeless in California.” CalMaters, 5 Oct. 2019,

Hepler, Lauren. “‘Present-Day Redlining’: A Black Homeowner Says Her Oakland Property Was Undervalued by $400K.” San Francisco Chronicle, 23 July 2021,

Hajek, Danny, et al. “A Black Family Got Their Beach Back — and Inspired Others to Fight against Land Theft.” NPR, 10 Oct. 2021,