Bloomberg Philanthropies unveils racial wealth gap database

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Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched an interactive database around racial wealth disparities aimed at increasing Black wealth accumulation.

Why it matters: Two years into a national reckoning following the death of George Floyd, banks and cities are experimenting with programs to expand homeownership among people of color. The new database could provide important information for such initiatives.

Driving the news: Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative announced Thursday its creation of the Black Wealth Data Center.

  • The project, incubated by the Washington, D.C.-based Prosperity Now, takes existing federal and public data and places it in a user-friendly format.
  • Organizers say they want to help policymakers with investment decisions using historic and present-day data about racial wealth disparities.

The big picture: The database is the latest project by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, a national program focusing on accelerating the pace of wealth accumulation for Black families.

  • Named after Tulsa’s Greenwood District, which destroyed during the 1921 massacre, the initiative wants to address systemic underinvestment in Black communities.

By the numbers: From 2011 to 2019, the percentage of Black adults with a Bachelor’s degree increased by 30%, yet in the same period, the average net worth for Black families headed by a college grad decreased by 4%, according to the Black Wealth Data Center.

  • In recent years, unemployment among Black adults decreased by nearly 20%. Yet, the Black unemployment rate is still the highest compared to all groups, even among people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Education loans make up more than half (53%) of the debt Black Americans carry, as compared to 29% for Latinos and 26% for white residents.

What they’re saying: “We want to empower those individuals, those organizations (who) are committed to increasing racial wealth equity,” Garnesha Ezediaro, who leads Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, told Axios.

  • “We’re hoping that the data will show where there are assets within Black communities.”
  • “Local data disaggregated by race is one of the hugest gaps in the country.”

A little more than four in 10 (45%) Black Americans, 48% of Hispanic Americans, and 61% of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders owned a home in the second quarter of 2022, compared to 75% of white Americans, per the Census Bureau.

Zoom out: The origins of the racial homeownership gap lie with the actions of the federal government and the private sector. Through redlining, they worked in concert to exclude majority Black neighborhoods from mortgage lending.

  • Black buyers couldn’t get the federally backed mortgages that helped launch so many Americans into the middle class, setting them on a path to providing generational wealth.
  • The practice was outlawed in 1968, but its legacy still haunts the housing market.

The intrigue: Bank of America recently announced “zero down payment” loans for first-time homebuyers in predominately Black and Hispanic neighborhoods who specification income requirements.

  • Two other banks, JPMorgan Chase and TD Bank, offer similar programs. If they were adopted widely in both the public and private sector, programs like these could truly make a dent in the racial homeownership gap — but so far they haven’t been.

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