Exploring Guaranteed Income Through A Racial And Gender Justice Lens

Race- and gender-based wealth inequities are two of the greatest failures of the American economy. Economic policy choices and practices put forth by those in power, such as the GI Bill and redlining, created wealth-building opportunities for white men but established barriers for everyone else. Implemented in tandem with the rise of corporate power by which profit is revered over people, these racist policies have resulted in racial and gender economic stratification that have reached epic heights. Today, approximately 160,000 households in America own more wealth than the poorest 90 percent combined— the highest concentration of wealth since 1962 (Igraham 2017).

Without bold, visionary action and policies to address these issues, the chasm between those who are economically secure and those who are not—mainly Black, brown, and Native American communities and women—will continue to grow, ultimately threatening our nation’s ability to finally achieve our promise of freedom, dignity, and security for all.

Race- and gender-based wealth inequities are two of the greatest failures of the American economy.

A growing group of progressives is committed to tackling racial wealth inequities head on (Newkirk II 2019). Once seen as fringe, “pie in the sky” ideas, a number of seemingly progressive economic policies have entered the public discourse, including a government-funded cash benefit program. Often referred to as “guaranteed income,” this big idea is a no-strings-attached direct cash benefit from the government that would provide a basic floor of living regardless of employment status or income by offering people a regular cash payment (Marinescu 2017).

With that context, this issue brief will explore to what extent and under what type of design a program that is usually discussed as a way to boost regular incomes could make a dent in racial and gender wealth inequities.

Click here to read the full issue brief (PDF).

Harriet Tubman stamp on $20 bill. (Photo courtesy of Dano Wall.) (Dano Wall/ Artist/Dano Wall/ Artist.)

Can They See Us?

How Mass Incarceration Destroys Lives and Economic Security

Episode 23: Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta

Listen to Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta and Anne Price discuss the current administration’s latest proposal to redefine poverty, how race neutral policies impact people of color, and some big ideas to address poverty and income inequality.


Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta is the Co-Executive Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality, where he leads work to develop and advance ideas for reducing domestic poverty and economic inequality, with particular attention to gender and racial equity.

Indi joined Anne Price on the podcast to discuss how the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is attempting to redefine poverty by artificially reducing the poverty line, resulting in millions of working Americans no longer being considered as “poor” or “low income.” This method would take away health coverage, food assistance, and other fundamental assistance from people who are struggling to make ends meet, with the greatest impact on people of color.

Sharing his research, Indi highlighted a few factors that make assistance programs necessary in the United States. One, the economy has never produced the type of jobs it needs on its own – and certainly not with current economic policies. Second, assistance programs are in place to protect and provide a fundamental standard of living, particularly during certain times in people’s lives when they cannot or should not work. Further, many economic security programs are tied to formal employment. This creates additional barriers for people, particularly women of color, working in vital, informal roles, such as caregiving. Indi argues that this work is important to our country as a whole and that everyone should be able to receive support for fundamental needs regardless of formal job classification.

Considering the big and bold ideas that current presidential candidates have proposed to address economic inequality, Indi discussed pathways for racial economic justice, including the need to equalize political power through democracy reforms that support inclusion and equity.

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.


To learn more about Indi’s work, visit the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality at georgetownpoverty.org and follow him on Twitter.

Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area

The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. Identified as a priority by Rise Together’s Opportunity for Every Worker workgroup, the project focuses on increasing the availability and accessibility of proven workforce development and employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record in order to improve their economic stability and well-being, with a focus on Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. The resulting report and recommendations are designed to be a guide for philanthropy, government, and local communities seeking to increase employment for individuals with a criminal record.

When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as – if not better than – their workplace peers. Economic and employment research conf rm that employees with records have better retention rates, more loyalty, and lower turnover (ACLU/ Trone, 2017). Despite these potential gains for employers and businesses, systemic barriers to employment for the justice impacted persist. The harms of policies, practices, and narratives discriminating against individuals with records are even greater for people of color. The collective cost of these barriers is stunning: In addition to losing an estimated $87 billion per year in gross domestic production nationwide, more than half a million capable, qualified people are left out of the national workforce – and, as a result, are more susceptible to poverty, homelessness, and cycles of debt. In recent years, reforms such as California’s Ban the Box policy have emerged from a groundswell of advocacy to improve outcomes for justice-impacted workers. Nonetheless, much still needs to be done to ensure that all Bay Area residents have a true “Fair Chance,” regardless of race, gender, or record status.

Enacted in 2018, California’s statewide Ban the Box (BTB) policy delays any use of a background check or inquiry into conviction history until later in the hiring process – after a candidate has met job qualifications. Despite the passage of BTB, and even with the Bay Area’s currently low unemployment rate of 3 percent, persistent obstacles to stable employment remain for people with criminal records. At virtually every stage of the hiring process, justice impacted applicants can be denied a job based on their record alone – either through employer practice, licensing restrictions, or both. In California, over 4,800 laws impose collateral consequences on people with arrest or criminal records, most of which have no benefit or relationship to public safety. Many of these laws exist solely to make it harder for people to get good jobs, or any job at all.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Click here to read the full report (PDF).

Remaking America’s Promise for the Next Generation

Anne Price | Medium

Last week, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a sweeping plan to tackle a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis to address our higher education system that is holding back generations of Americans. Her proposal calls for wiping out student debt of up to $50,000 for 42 million working and middle class Americans. Moreover, 90 percent of those who are burdened with student debt but dropped out of college would also benefit. The proposal makes all public colleges’ tuition and fees free, adds $100 billion in Pell grants over ten years, and creates a $50 billion fund for HBCUs (historically black colleges) and other minority-serving institutions. Senator Warren plans to pay for it with an annual 2 percent tax on families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren’s plan is sparking a debate about the scale of federal support needed to address the student loan crisis and surfacing narratives about fairness and deservedness. It also provides us the opportunity to examine how corporate power and anti-Black racism is depriving an entire generation of young people from getting ahead, whether that’s buying a home, saving for retirement, starting a family, or launching a business. Student debt ultimately serves as a multigenerational debt anchor that causes unrelenting stress, financial strain, and a spiraling cycle of debt.

Who carries debt and who defaults on their loans is racialized and gendered. About 11.5 percent of student loans are in default. According to the New York Federal Reserve, borrowers between the ages of 40 to 49 have the worst delinquency rates. It is estimated that in the next five years, 40 percent of borrowers are likely to default.

Last month we released a report about millennial women — defined as those born between 1980 and 1997— showing that two-thirds of student debt ($900 billion) is owed by women. And roughly $700 billion of outstanding loan balances are held by Americans under 40.

Click here to read the full piece on Medium.

Episode 22: Rakeen Mabud

Listen to Rakeen Mabud and Jhumpa Bhattacharya discuss mandatory arbitration and other features of the 21st century workplace that are decreasing worker power and driving negative economic outcomes for women and people of color.


What and who is an employee in the 21st century? How are fissured workplaces, credentialization, and forced arbitration policies changing the nature of work? And what are workers and advocates doing to push back?

Rakeen Mabud of the Roosevelt Institute joined Jhumpa Bhattacharya on the podcast to dig into these issues and more.

Rakeen is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where she works on labor market policies, the future of work, and the role that race and gender play in our economy and society. She is also a standing contributor to Forbes, where she writes about the 21st century economy, and she previously worked on domestic microeconomic policy at the Treasury Department under the Obama administration.

Rakeen joined Jhumpa to share her research on what has become a widespread feature of the labor market: mandatory arbitration, the practice of requiring employees to settle workplace disputes outside of the courts and behind closed doors. For employers, this practice effectively amounts to a “get out of jail free card” for resolving workplace disputes, preventing workers from pursuing justice in the courts or even sharing out about their experience.

Rakeen and Jhumpa discussed this and other troubling characteristics of today’s labor market, from monopsony to the explosive growth of contract workers, that contribute to decreased worker power and have an outsized impact on millennial women and people of color.

Reflecting on these challenges and the path ahead, Rakeen shared her optimism in being part of a growing array of young and diverse voices, from organizers to policy wonks, who are tackling these issues head on with an eye for deep-seated, structural change.

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.


To learn more about Rakeen’s work, follow her at the Roosevelt Institute, Forbes, and on Twitter.

Fresh, Feminist Voices are Exactly What Our Nation Needs Right Now

Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

Paul Ryan’s advice to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on navigating Capitol Hill was to lay low and avoid ruffling any feathers. Thankfully, she didn’t listen to a thing he said—and neither did Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of many of AOC’s freshman colleagues in the most distinctly diverse and female Congress in American history.

Instead, they’ve scorched their own brilliant paths forward by doing the exact opposite: AOC has become a driving force, in just a matter of months in office, behind the Green New Deal; Omar stirred controversy, most recently, for speaking up against anti-Muslim sentiment in politics.

Both women are forcing much needed national conversations on complex issues never before thought possible—and whether you agree with their politics or not, it’s remarkable to see how they’ve fought to make their voices and perspectives matter and electrified and motivated a base of support which cannot be ignored.

“Clipped Wings,” a report on the millennial wealth gap for women, showcases just how important their voices are.

Click here to read her full op-ed.

The Payback Problem

Our new report, released in collaboration with PolicyLinkThe San Francisco Financial Justice ProjectTipping Point Community and Western Center on Law & Poverty, reveals that taking parents’ child support payments to pay back the cost of public assistance harms California’s low-income parents and children.

According to the report, The Payback Problem, inequitable public assistance payback policies take money away from children in poverty, set low-income parents up to fail, and discourage parents from making payments at all. The report also recommends reforms that have proven successful in other states.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of California children living in poverty do not receive all of the child support payments made by their parents. For low-income parents, most of their child support payments do not go to their children. Instead, the majority of their payments go to the government to pay back the cost of public assistance. In California, more than 70 percent of outstanding child support debt is owed to the government—not children.

Low-income parents should not be a source of revenue for our safety net. When families cannot pay they face punitive penalties including incarceration, suspension of driver’s licenses, and high-interest rates which balloon the debt they owe the government.

In addition, families of color are disproportionately impacted by public assistance payback policies. Due to persistent barriers to economic security, 85 percent of parents who owe child support are men of color and more than 75 percent of the children impacted by public assistance payback requirements are children of color.

There should be no price tag on our safety net for low-income families. Recent rules and reforms at the federal level encourage states to send more of parents’ child support payments through to their children. The report proposes reforms, many of which have proven successful in other states and are currently being put forward by members of the California Legislature.

Click here to download and read the full report (PDF).


WEBINAR
Join us on Tuesday, April 30 to learn more about the payback problem, its negative impact on low-income families of color, and how you can help advance reforms.

WHAT: The Payback Problem Webinar

WHEN: Tuesday, April 30 from 11:00am – 12:00pm PDT

REGISTER: Click here to learn more and register to attend.

Opinion: California should eliminate court administrative fees

By Holly Mitchell and Jhumpa Bhattacharya | East Bay Times

The way our criminal justice system operates is changing. Community members, policy advocates and a growing number of judges recognize that criminal fines and fees are unjust and harm low-income people and communities of color.

California is poised to follow the lead of Alameda County and San Francisco in addressing this issue by passing SB 144, the Families Over Fees Act. The bill would eliminate county-imposed and other criminal administrative fees throughout California, and discharge all related debt.

The bill is co-sponsored by a coalition of organizations, including ACLU Southern and Northern California, A New Way of Life, The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center, Homeboy Industries, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and PolicyLink.

Despite its progressive reputation, California imposes financial burdens and barriers — including administrative fees, surcharges, and penalty assessments — on people who have gone through the legal system and are striving to move forward with their lives. These additional impositions are extraordinarily burdensome and undermine the economic security of low-income families and families of color who simply cannot afford to pay them.

Click here to read the full opinion piece.

Centering Women of Color is the Path Forward to Economic Security for Millennials

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Medium

We are living in a remarkable time for the fight for gender equity. From #MeToo and #TimesUp to the unprecedented wave of women elected to congressional office, women across generations are stepping into their power and working to change the injustices they face every day. Tired of living in a society overrun by outdated patriarchal norms and policies, women are organizing and striving to make a better future for themselves and the generations to come.

New research backs up why these movements are vital, and why we need more women in positions of power to ensure discussions and decisions around policies like guaranteed income meet the needs of women of color.

Clipped Wings, a new report produced by Asset Funders Network (AFN), in collaboration with the Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG) initiative and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, highlights how our economic and social policies are based on racist and sexist ideologies and practices, and are in dire need of transformation in order to keep up with the realities of the millennial experience.

Click here to read the full piece.