Melvin Oliver

melvin oliver

Melvin Oliver’s long and distinguished career has been devoted to understanding and addressing the complex factors that contribute to deep racial disparities in wealth.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16,  he will give a talk on “Income and Wealth Inequality.” The lecture will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Anheuser-Busch Hall, Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom.

Oliver is best known for his pioneering study, together with sociologist Thomas Shapiro, PhD, that revealed the deep divide that exists within our culture that keeps African-Americans from receiving the same opportunities as whites for building wealth. In their research, Oliver and Shapiro make the distinction between “income,” defined as a standard of living, and “assets,” broadly defined as savings, investments and inheritances that provide opportunities for advancing or enriching a life.

The result of their research was the seminal 1995 book, updated in 2006, called “Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Equality.”

Oliver is the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also serves as executive dean of the College of Letters and Sciences and as professor of sociology. In addition to his tenure in academia, Oliver, who earned his doctorate in sociology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in 1977, served for several years as vice president of asset building and community development for the Ford Foundation.

In addition to a long teaching career, Oliver served for several years as the vice president of asset building and community development for the Ford Foundation. He received his doctorate in sociology at Washington University in 1977.

Find a more detailed analysis of Oliver’s work at “Race: The Power of an Illusion” a PBS interview with Bill Moyers and for a profile, read the WU Magazine feature story.