Color of Wealth Research

We work with leading economists and academic institutions to develop data-driven research that documents and exposes the policies, laws, and other structural forces that have held back communities of color in building wealth over many generations. Our research on race and intergenerational wealth transfer provides detailed portraits and trenchant analysis of the intersections of wealth, race, and opportunity in our nation’s key population centers and communities of color, providing the hard data and deep historical context behind economic inequity in the U.S. Our original data is the only data that exists on wealth and subpopulations of Americans such as Mexican, Korean, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Filipino Americans, etc. 

The Color of Wealth in Miami | February 2019

The Color of Wealth in Miami is a joint publication of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

Income and wealth inequality in the United States, especially across racial and ethnic groups, is dramatic and persistent. While income is often used by researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers to describe local economic conditions and drive policy decisions, it also increasingly is recognized as an inadequate indicator of economic well-being, mobility, and security. Wealth is generally less volatile than income, and it provides a store of resources that gives families security during emergencies and allows them to secure advantages that foster the well-being of the next generation.

Click here to view and download the full report as a PDF.


The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital | November 2016

The Color of Wealth in the Nation’s Capital is a joint publication of the Urban Institute, Duke University, The New School, and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

The 2007–09 Great Recession and housing crisis erased approximately half of Black and Latino households’ wealth, while Asians suffered the largest absolute lost in wealth (McKernan et al. 2014). Asian and Latino households tended to live in geographic areas that were hit hardest by the housing crisis (De La Cruz-Viesca, Hamilton, and Darity 2015). But the dramatic wealth disparities between White communities and communities of color long predate the dramatic economic downturn. This report explores racial and ethnic differences in net worth, focusing on Black families in Washington, DC, and shows, through a chronicle of their history in the city, how discrimination and systemic racism have contributed to today’s wealth gap in the nation’s capital.

Click here to view and download the full report as a PDF.


The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles | March 2016

The new report examines wealth inequality across racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles, shows substantial disparity with Japanese, Asian Indians, Chinese and whites ranking among the top, while blacks, Mexicans, other Latinos, Koreans and Vietnamese rank far behind.

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles” is the first report to compile detailed data on assets and debts among people of different races, ethnicities and countries of origin residing in the Los Angeles area. Researchers from UCLADuke University and The New School, with support from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, analyzed data on assets such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles. Debts included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt.

To download the full report click here.

Ensuring a Thriving Future for Working People of Color

Work in America is changing, and for many Americans it is not changing for the better. A postwar world of work that brought two generations of unprecedented American prosperity ended in the 1970s and has been replaced with stagnated and/or low wages, decreasing benefits and worker power, and limited opportunities for advancement. Working people of color are often packed into jobs based on things outside of their control, including race, age, and gender.

  • Conduct research to better understand the impacts of technological change impact job quality for women, young people, and people of color and propose policy solutions.
  • Support groups led by working people of color to develop a proactive agenda to address the changing nature of work and ensure dignity and respect in the workplace
  • Uncover the drivers of racial and gender inequity in the ways in which workforce institutions may be perpetuating racial/ gender bias and inequities
  • Increase understanding of how the rules of our economy are driving labor market changes and affecting working people of color to inform local campaigns and policy agendas
  • Examine the long-term economic consequences of occupational segregation among young adults of color

Redefining Economic Security & Building Support for Bold Economic Policies

More than 50 million Americans live in economically disinvested communities beleaguered by high levels of joblessness and financial instability. Across California, 3.3 million households are living paycheck-to-paycheck, sleepless at night, wondering how they will pay next month’s rent and feed their families. This reality would be hidden if we used an antiquated measure like the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) to determine the economic viability of the people of California. It is time to stop tinkering around the edges of policy, with economic rules centered on the notion that the market itself is natural, moral and will make us all more prosperous. We must begin to put theoretical debates about how to reduce poverty, improve financial stability and address long-standing racial inequities to the test. All around us are amplified calls to move beyond defensive strategies and incremental steps to bigger, bolder actions.

You think Bay Area housing is expensive? Child care costs are rising, too | February 2019

By Karen D’Souza | Bay Area News Group

While most people are fast asleep, Alexis Gasperecz works the graveyard shift at a homeless shelter for veterans. Around 8 a.m., when her shift ends, she leaves to take care of her children, Brielle, 11 months old, and King, 3, until about 6:30 p.m. when her boyfriend Darrin Davis and his mother return from their jobs for the childcare hand-off. By midnight, it’s time for Gasperecz to go back to work. If she’s lucky, she’s squeezed in three or four hours sleep. Click here to read the full article.

Past the Drought op-ed | January 2019

By Aisa Villarosa, Associate Director of Policy and Research

Take your pick of produce from any grocery aisle in the nation, and it’s likely to come from California’s Central Valley.

The Central Valley contains less than one percent of total farmland in the United States; and yet, the region grows nearly half of the country’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts, carrying a total annual value of over $33 billion.[1] This abundance is achieved through the year-round efforts of the Valley’s agricultural workers — thousands of women, men, and children who toil through scorching days and cold nights, with little pay or job protection. Click here to read the full piece.

Past the Drought Report | December 2018

Past the Drought: Overcoming Barriers to Economic Security in California’s Central Valley, a report released by the Insight Center in partnership with the California Asset Building Coalition, examines why so many workers in the Central Valley of California are struggling to afford their basic needs.

The Cost of Being California | April 2018

Our 2018 report, The Cost of Being Californian (PDF, 1.3 MB), highlights the initial key findings from the 2018 update of the Family Needs Calculator, and indicates that the cost of being Californian, particularly for women and communities of color, has become dangerously high.

Opinion: Income program must be paired with honest dialog on race | November 2017

The East Bay Times published “Opinion: Income program must be paired with honest dialog on race” by Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Director of Racial Equity and Strategy at the Insight Center.

“Universal Basic Income — a policy idea whereby people receive unconditional funds to help meet their most essential needs — is making waves in California. The city of Stockton is set to launch a three-year pilot program. And Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups, is designing a pilot project for Oakland.”

Universal Basic Income: Reclaiming Our Time for Racial Justice | October 31, 2017

It’s been 40 years since we witnessed a Women’s Convention challenging our nation to take up equal rights of women in education, work, and in their personal lives, but this past weekend nearly 5,000 people, mostly women, gathered in Detroit as part of the inaugural Women’s Convention with the theme of Reclaiming Our TimeClick here to read Anne’s full piece on Medium.

Income Outcome | October 20, 2017

Anne Price was interviewed by Income Outcome, a documentary project that explores the fundamentals of basic income and how this simple idea can help ordinary, struggling Americans overcome a rigged economy to achieve stability, prosperity, and freedom.

She had an illuminating conversation on poverty, racial wealth inequality, and basic income.  Be sure to follow Income Outcome on Facebook and Twitter for more details about the film.

CASH Con | October 14, 2017

Insight staff attended the CASH Conference on Thursday, October 19, 2017, put on by the Economic Security Project. Held at the old San Francisco Mint building, the conference brought together activists, policy advocates, artists, economists, and elected officials to understand to explore how basic income can address the needs of our changing economy.

Insight President, Anne Price, was invited to speak on the panel exploring racial justice and basic income. Anne spoke about how our current welfare programs are steeped in race, and how a guaranteed income can help us address how we dehumanize and strip away dignity from recipients of safety net programs. Watch the recorded session here.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs also announced the city’s experiment on a guaranteed income at the conference, generating lots of excitement and hope. The entire day was thought provoking and the Insight team is looking forward to continuing this work with the Economic Security Project.

For more information about Universal Basic Income, be sure to visit the Economic Security Project’s Medium page.

Universal Basic Income (UBI): A Silver Bullet to Reduce Poverty? | September 14, 2017

Bay Area Asset Funders Network held a panel discussion, Universal Basic Income (UBI): A Silver Bullet to Reduce Poverty, on September 14th to help both funders and practitioners gain a deeper understanding of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and its potential to address economic inequality.

Click here to watch a full recording of Bob FriedmanNatalie FosterAnne Price, and Sean Kline discuss how Universal Basic Income can foster racial justice.

Mitigating the Impact of Mass Incarceration on Economic Security

The rise of mass incarceration has reshaped economic inequality and poverty and has become a permanent feature of the economic experience for Black and Brown people. The National Employment Law Project estimates that 65 million people in the United States, or approximately one in four adults, have criminal records. Incarceration radically undermines a person’s capacity to find and keep a job and to build wealth. Despite making up such a significant portion of our population, there is still little understanding of the financial status of people who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

  • Shift the national conversation on the racial wealth gap and income inequality to expand the focus on the long-term, economic impacts of incarceration by race and gender. 
  • Identify and dismantle the economic barriers that our nation’s criminal justice system creates for low-income people, and provide solutions for advocates and grassroots organizers to use in their work.
  • Strengthen workforce practices and investments to support fair chance hiring.
  • Work in coalition to eliminate the extractive nature of the criminal justice system through fines and fees, bail reform and other local municipal policies and practice.

Insight works with legal advocates in California to fix the broken and unjust system of traffic fines and fees, one of the key levers of economic exclusion. We fight to ensure that lawmakers understand and balance the real life impacts and perils of fines, fees, and license suspension with institutional need for revenue generation.

Insight is a part of the California Debt Free Justice Collaborative, you can learn more here.

Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area | May 2019

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. 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. Click here to read the Excutive Summary.

Opinion: End criminal justice fees that harm minorities and poor | October 2018

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Theresa Zhen

The Bay Area is known for its progressive values. We view ourselves as committed to ensuring everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is safe, economically secure and able to reach their full potential. Click here to read the full article.

SB10 Will Hurt, Not Help | August 2018

By Jacob Denney, Director of Policy and Research at the Insight Center

This week, California legislators moved forward in passing Senate Bill 10 to eliminate money bail. While eliminating money bail is desperately needed to fix our broken criminal justice system, the bill as it stands now will do nothing to disrupt the legacy of racial and economic injustice that has shaped our state’s criminal justice system. In fact, the bill will likely ensure a continuance of that legacy. That is why we need Governor Brown to veto Senate Bill 10. Click here to read the full article.

Los Angeles County Can Do Better by Its African American and Latinx Populations | June 2018

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Vice President of Programs and Strategies at the Insight Center.

A lot happened on election day this week, including the San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors taking a big step towards shared economic prosperity by unanimously passing vital legislation to waive all unpaid debt and eliminate county-level administrative fees that are currently charged to people exiting the criminal justice system. Los Angeles County can and should follow suit to help families who have struggled under the burden of a biased criminal justice system. Click here to read the full article.

Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform | May 2017

Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform is a detailed report highlighting the flaws and inequities of California’s current traffic fine and fee system and offering specific recommendations for reforms that would promote sustainable system funding and the fair administration of justice for all Californians. Authored by Annette Case and Jhumpa Bhattacharya of the Insight Center, the report describes a current system that all too often leads to spiraling debt, license suspension, and unequal justice for the poor and communities of color. Read the report to learn how low-income, Black, and Latino communities are disproportionately affected by California’s fixed fine and fee system, and how we can bring fair, practical, and sustainable reforms to serve all Californians.

Click here to view and download Driving Into Debt: The Need for Traffic Ticket Fee Reform.



Shifting Narratives to Support Policy Change and Build Power

Real change will be possible only when we have changed the cultural narratives and mental models that shape how economic issues and solutions are identified. Narrative and culture shifts are also essential to building public and political will around progressive economic policies that will successfully address racial and gender wealth inequities and transform our current punitive social safety net programs. We are perhaps most challenged to overcome America’s highly dominant language and frame around personal responsibility.

  • Work with organizations and philanthropy to identify ways in which they may be inadvertently playing into harmful meta-narratives around personal responsibility, deservedness and anti-Blackness.
  • Incubate local narrative change efforts focused on arts and culture.
  • Work collectively with nonprofit organizations to develop common language, new frames and narratives across economic issues.

Addressing the Root Causes of Racial and Gender Wealth Inequality

Racial and gender wealth differences are widening and show no signs of reversing. Many efforts to close a racial wealth gap fall short of understanding the systematic, historical advantage white Americans received from economic policies over time. In some cases, these efforts give us a false notion that if people just make better financial decisions they will become prosperous. Insight believes that we need to direct solutions at the root causes of both racial and gender wealth inequities in order to shift power back to everyday Americans, not just the rich.

  • Advance wealth as the “North Star” of economic security connecting income, work, housing, mass incarceration and other economic issues.
  • Leverage groundbreaking research to support organizing campaigns and advocacy for bold solutions.
  • Provide strategic, thought leadership to nonprofits and philanthropists to address root causes of racial and gender wealth inequities.
  • Broaden reach and support for policies and practices that eliminate wealth inequalities including addressing crippling debt.

Video: Racist right-wing media myths allow the racial wealth gap to persist | May 2019

Wealth inequality in the U.S. has been steadily increasing along racial and ethnic lines since the Great Recession, according to a Pew study. White Americans disproportionately enjoy the economic security that wealth affords to people in this country, and right-wing media figures often blame Black people for their lack of financial means. Media Matters spoke with Anne Price, president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, where she leads the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative that elevates the voices of experts of color in national economic debates and policymaking. She dispelled the racist right-wing media myths that link the wealth gap to behavioral pathology and deservedness. Click here to watch the full video.

Clipped Wings: Closing the Wealth Gap for Millennial Women | March 2019

Today, there are about 40 million millennial women, representing 31.5% of the female population in the U.S. Millennial women do not benefit from many economic policies and systems designed by, and built to meet the needs of, men as primary breadwinners. Millennial women came of age during the Great Recession, the rise of mass incarceration, unprecedented student debt levels, and changing workforce dynamics. All of these factors contribute to the fact that millennial women are 37% more likely than Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1984) to be living below the federal poverty line and are more likely to be underemployed or unemployed than previous generations. Click here to read the full report.

Clipped Wings Webinar | November 2018

Too many Millennial women are operating under clipped wings that prevent them from achieving economic security and soaring to their full potential. Existing policies affecting family economic security do not support Millennial women’s rise in educational attainment and resulting student debt burden, nor do they acknowledge the ongoing roles Millennial women play as the primary caregivers for children and other family members. Click here to access the recorded webinar and slide deck.

What we Got Wrong about the Wealth Gap | July 2018

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).  Click here to read the full report.

Women Race and Wealth | January 2017

Women, Race and Wealth is the first in a series of briefs that summarize patterns of household wealth among Black and white women by college education, family structure and age using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Researchers from Duke University and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development analyzed data on assets such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles. Debts included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt. To read the full research brief, click here.

Bootstraps are for Black Kids | September 2015

A new study released today shows that—despite a close to 19 to 1 racial difference in median wealth—black parents demonstrate an outsized commitment to using their limited resources to invest in their children’s education. And that investment pays off; bringing their children to near parity in terms of educational achievement with their white counterparts. Click here to learn more.

Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain | April 2015

This report challenges America’s egalitarian promise of opportunity and individual agency. Research and public policy have traditionally focused on education and income as drivers of upward mobility. Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain reveals that it’s the unearned birthright of inheritance or other family transfers that has the greatest effect on wealth accumulation, and likewise is the largest factor erecting barriers to wealth accumulation for people of color. Click here to read the full report.