For more than a decade, in partnership with the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, the Insight Center has provided the Self-Sufficiency Standard for California to gain a realistic and comprehensive understanding of the economic security of Californians.
An alternative measure to the Federal Poverty Line, the Self-Sufficiency Standard uses a “bare bones” budget to estimate the minimum income needed for more than 700 different family types to meet the essential costs of living across California’s 58 counties.
While California has a reputation as a progressive policy leader, the 2018 data reveals the alarming extent to which low, middle, even higher-income households and, particularly, families of color face barriers to making ends meet within the largest economy in the United States.
The racial wealth gap is large and shows no signs of closing. Recent data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (2014) shows that black households hold less than seven cents on the dollar compared to white households.1 The white household living near the poverty line typically has about $18,000 in wealth, while black households in similar economic straits typically have a median wealth near zero. This means, in turn, that many black families have a negative net worth. (Hamilton et al. 2015).
In this report, we address ten commonly held myths about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that a number of ideas frequently touted as “solutions” will not make headway in reducing black-white wealth disparities. These conventional ideas include greater educational attainment, harder work, better financial decisions, and other changes in habits and practices on the part of blacks. While these steps are not necessarily undesirable, they are wholly inadequate to bridge the racial chasm in wealth.
These myths support a point of view that identifies dysfunctional black behaviors as the basic cause of persistent racial inequality, including the black-white wealth disparity, in the United States. We systematically demonstrate here that a narrative that places the onus of the racial wealth gap on black defectiveness is false in all of its permutations.
We challenge the conventional set of claims that are made about the racial wealth gap in the United States. We contend that the cause of the gap must be found in the structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy.
A recent study led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, and the Census Bureau is intensifying the national discussion around income inequality. The findings once again confirm that economic inequality is largely driven by race, not class, and that class status is not permanent among Blacks. Moreover, the report indicates that racial income inequality is not tied to family background or individual effort.
Perhaps the most staggering conclusion of the study is that income inequality between Blacks and whites is fueled almost entirely by the racial discrimination Black boys and men face in their lives.
While these findings are significant, it’s important to emphasize that examining income inequality, particularly with a primary focus on only half the population, can only take us so far in understanding how social mobility is shaped, and how well-being is understood.
Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Andrea Flynn discuss the systemic barriers that hold back women, particularly women of color, and the need for far-reaching policy change.
Andrea Flynn is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where she researches and writes about issues that impact women and families. She explores connections between reproductive healthcare and poverty, state-level restrictions to family planning and abortion, inequality and maternal mortality, and various economic policies that impact the economic security of women and families.
The report sheds light on the fact that for women – particularly women of color – health, safety and economic security are inextricably linked. Using an intersectionality framework, the report illustrates the vast web of racialized and gendered “rules” in the U.S. that lead to inequitable opportunities and outcomes for women of color.
Andrea discussed how tinkering around the edges with small policy changes, while important, may not effectively facilitate widespread change for women of color due to the way racism and sexism are “baked in” to our social and economic systems.
Andrea also talked about the need to create programs for marginalized communities that would account for the legacy of racial exclusion and disparities and foster opportunities that would indeed trickle up and benefit a much broader set of Americans.
To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.
The infant mortality rate (IMR) is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the IMR in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For Black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births — resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the Black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada.
Black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States, and the Black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation.
This report shows that it is time for policy makers to acknowledge this issue and develop strategies that effectively reduce Black infant mortality. The price for inaction is too high and has both social and economic implications for Black families. Fighting at Birth outlines suggested policies, programs, and strategies, catering specifically to the needs of Black women, in order to decrease the national Black IMR.
Listen to Anne Price, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, and Dorian Warren discuss the realities, myths, and narratives behind racial wealth inequities, and next steps for fostering racial economic justice and equity.
Persistent racial wealth inequity in the U.S. stems from a legacy of deep-rooted, systemic racial and economic injustice. Policy decisions – both intentional and careless – have not only systematically excluded people of color from economic opportunity but have extracted wealth from families and communities over many generations.
Addressing racial wealth stratification has been a key focus of work in the economic security field for more than a decade. Where are we in efforts to tackle racial wealth inequities, and what are our next steps for securing policies that foster equity and opportunity for all?
To explore these issues, the Insight Center partnered with Prosperity Now to host a virtual conversation, Getting Real About Racial Wealth Inequities: Reflections & Next Steps.
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Senior Fellow for the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now.
The panel discussed the latest research on racial wealth inequities, reflected on past and current efforts in the field, identified strategies and pathways for advancing racial wealth equity, and more.
Watch the full discussion using the media player above, or listen to the podcast by using the audio player below or by visiting the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes or Android.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration quietly announced that it will allow individual states to impose work requirements on “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients — those aged 19 to 64 who are not disabled — as a condition of eligibility.
There is ample evidence from other social safety net programs that work requirements do little to help support people in jobs over the long run, and are in fact more likely to push struggling families off the rolls and into deeper poverty.
Despite this evidence, ten states now have work or community engagement proposals pending with the administration, and Kentucky was the first to be approved. Kentucky officials have already hinted that those who qualified under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expansion will have to earn dentist and vision benefits by taking financial literacy classes or by getting a GED. Those who are not elderly or disabled will have to pay premiums and report changes to their income or employment status.
Why is there still popular support for work requirements when we know they further penalize struggling families? The answer is troubling, but simple: Americans have strongly held views about the connection of work to personhood.
Much of the power of “work first” thinking comes from its close connection to people’s sense of what it means to be a Person. Insight’s research on economic security and race reveals that most Americans equate joblessness with a lack of agency, and thus being diminished as a person, or somehow less moral.
Juliana joined Insight President Anne Price to discuss her work on basic income, a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without a means-test or work requirement.
Originally from France, Juliana shared the different social perceptions between recipients of cash benefits in Europe and those who receive them in the U.S.
She also discussed the narrative around deservingness and how race, gender, and age all play a role in how society stigmatizes those who need a helping hand. She has focused her work on the economic inequalities between generations and the question of what it means to treat young people as equals.
Juliana also described the mission at the Stanford BIL and how her class opens this conversation to all voices who are ready to shape the debate, as well as those who are not yet visible in the conversation.
To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.
Aisa is the Associate Director of Policy and Research at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. In this role, she applies her advocacy, law, and policy expertise to Insight’s workforce development and economic security initiatives. Through policy work, stakeholder engagement, and data analysis, she supports Insight’s Self-Sufficiency Standard, a tool that quantifies the costs of basic needs for California’s working families. Her cross-program work also includes legal research, technical assistance, capacity building, and content development.
As an advocate, Aisa is passionate about creating spaces and identifying opportunities to help communities thrive. She draws from nearly ten years of experience in helping to highlight system-wide inequities, drive cross-disciplinary collaboration, and turn strategy into action. As a children’s rights and legal aid attorney in Detroit, Michigan, she co-founded The 313 Project, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting the city’s underserved communities with legal aid, health, education, and job training resources. As a licensed attorney in Michigan and California, Aisa has roots in public benefits, health, juvenile justice, housing, immigration, and child welfare advocacy. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her law degree from Wayne State University.
Prior to joining Insight, Aisa served as an Associate Attorney at Young Minds Advocacy, a nonprofit working to ensure that California’s youth and families receive full access to quality mental health supports. An Oakland resident, Aisa serves as a board member of Aspire Education Project, a nonprofit working to build educational equity across the Bay Area. As a former instructor of Filipinx American civil rights history and policy, she is a supporter of building cross-cultural studies programs across the country. Aisa is an avid painter and photographer, and her artwork is displayed throughout the East Bay.