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Scoring Federal Legislation for Equity: Definition, Framework, and Potential Application

June 6, 2022

Federal legislation is fundamental to building a nation in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Since our nation's founding, in many ways, federal legislation has created and exacerbated racial inequities, leaving one-third of the population experiencing material poverty and preventing our democracy from realizing the promise of equity. To ensure the federal government serves us all, we must accurately understand and assess whether every policy advances or impedes equity. The Equity Scoring Initiative (ESI) exists to establish the foundation for a new legislative scoring regime. By scoring for equity, we can begin to create an accountable, responsive democracy.

The Shrinking Geography of Opportunity in Metro America

May 10, 2022

The coronavirus pandemic continues to both illuminate and deepen the challenges of structural racism and housing inequity in the United States. While rent relief programs are sunsetting and rents are skyrocketing, millions of renters negatively impacted by the pandemic's economic fallout face crushing rent debt, eviction, and homelessness. And the renters who have been hit the hardest are disproportionately people of color and people living on low incomes. This extreme precarity stems from a housing crisis that has plagued communities for decades. At the onset of the pandemic, there was not a single state, region, or county in the US where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could afford a two-bedroom rental home, and nearly half of Black and Latinx renters (and more than a third of all renters) were paying unaffordable rent.Not only is there an overall shortage of affordable rental homes, but they are rarely located in "high-opportunity" neighborhoods that have high-quality schools, safe streets, clean air, parks, reliable transit, and proximity to jobs, retail, and services. Instead, they are concentrated in disinvested neighborhoods that lack these "opportunity structures" and are often replete with harms ranging from polluted air to decrepit infrastructure to excessive surveillance and police violence. The overcrowding of affordable homes in lower opportunity neighborhoods and lack of affordable homes in higher opportunity neighborhoods have significant negative consequences for people living on low incomes. Decades of research underscore that living in a neighborhood lacking critical opportunity structures negatively affects health, access to educational and economic opportunities, and life outcomes — especially for children. This uneven "geography of opportunity," or access to neighborhood conditions that influence positive life opportunities and outcomes, is a defining hallmark of American metropolitan regions — and it is one that is deeply rooted in systemic racism. In the past, racially discriminatory policies, including redlining, urban renewal, and government-backed home loans (almost exclusively for white homebuyers), created geographic concentrations of opportunity and disadvantage throughout regions. Today, policies that are not explicitly discriminatory yet have racially inequitable impacts (e.g., exclusionary zoning), maintain these patterns of spatial inequality — effectively locking many people of color out of educational and economic opportunity.This analysis is the first in a series exploring the changing geography of opportunity in American metropolitan regions, building from our earlier analysis of the San Francisco Bay Area. In that study, we found that only 5 percent of census tracts in the region had median market rents that were affordable to a renter household of two full-time workers each earning $15 per hour. Those affordable neighborhoods were located on the outskirts of the region, and 92 percent of them were "low opportunity," according to the Child Opportunity Index produced by researchers at Brandeis University. Our findings underscored the pattern of regional resegregation in the Bay Area described by Urban Habitat, in which tech-driven growth has been pushing low-wage service-sector workers out of core cities to the outer parts of the region.Expanding our lens to the largest 100 metros, in this analysis we ask three questions: First, how does neighborhood affordability for low-income households differ across metros? Second, how does neighborhood affordability vary for Black, Latinx, and white households across metros? And third, is the geography of opportunity for low-income households and households of color shrinking over time, restricting housing choices to an even smaller number of neighborhoods far away from the locus of economic activity? We answer these questions using data on median market rents by zip code from Zillow and metro-level census data on household income overall and for Black, Latinx, and white households for the years 2013 and 2019 to capture the period of economic recovery between the Great Recession and the pandemic. Forthcoming analyses in this series will examine the changing geography of opportunity for Asian and Pacific Islander communities and Native American communities across the country.Using median market rent as a measure of neighborhood affordability means two important things: First, we are focusing on the costs faced by households searching for available rental housing in a metro, not the cost of all rental housing units in a metro. (In other words, we are excluding the housing units of incumbent renters, which tend to have lower rents.) Second, given that a median means that half of the rents are below it and half are above it, this is a summary measure of neighborhood affordability, not a precise measure. So, affordable rentals might exist in a specific neighborhood, but they are not plentiful.To examine affordability by race/ethnicity, we define an affordable zip code as one with a median market rent that is affordable to households at the median household income for that racial/ethnic group within that metro. For example, in 2019, 13 of 350 zip codes were affordable to Black households at the median income for all Black households in Chicago ($76,394) and 48 zip codes were affordable to Latinx households at the median income for all Latinx households in Chicago ($101,643). In the proceeding analysis, the terminology "median-income Black households" and "Black households at the median income" refer to Black households at the median household income for Black households within that metro. This is true for Latinx and white households as well.

Coming Back Better: Leveraging Crisis-Response Task Forces to Advance Racial Equity and Worker Justice

March 15, 2022

As the United States enters its third year of navigating the global Covid-19 pandemic, the coronavirus continues to disrupt the lives of millions of workers and their families. About a quarter of the US workforce—nearly 41 million workers -- experienced at least one spell of unemployment due to the coronavirus. As of February 2022, some 3 million fewer people are employed than before the pandemic. While nearly all workers have been affected, yet these impacts are highly unequal: low-wage workers, Black workers, and other workers of color, particularly women of color, have experienced the greatest health and economic harms. This lop-sided labor market recovery has done little to buoy low-wage workers of color who continue to face heavy burdens in terms of rent debt and childcare access.

Advancing Employment Equity in Rural North Carolina

June 1, 2018

This brief describes why employment equity in rural North Carolina is critical to the state's economic future and lays out a policy roadmap to achieving employment equity. This roadmap is based on data analysis and modeling of a "full-employmentfor-all economy" (defined as an economy in which everyone who wants a job can find one) that was conducted by the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California as well as policy research and focus groups conducted by PolicyLink, Rural Forward, and the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center.

Boosting Economic Growth in Mississippi through Employment Equity

May 1, 2018

This brief describes why employment equity is critical to Mississippi's economic future and lays out a policy roadmap toachieve employment equity. It is based on data analysis and modeling of a "full-employment economy" (defined as when everyone who wants a job can find one), which was conducted by the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California, and on policy research and focus groups conducted by PolicyLink and the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative (MLICCI).

Advancing Employment Equity in Alabama

April 3, 2018

This report, Advancing Employment Equity in Alabama, offers a framework to guide policymakers as they consider how to best connect residents to good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and remove the barriers that have held back far too many for far too long. The Alabama Asset Building Coalition is prepared to be a partner in this effort and further our mission of building an economic foundation that allows underserved Alabamians to reach their highest potential and secure their financial future.

Equitable Development: The Path to an All-In Pittsburgh

September 16, 2016

Now is Pittsburgh's moment for equitable development, and its leaders must commit to implementing the recommendations in this report and ensuring everyone is a part of the new Pittsburgh. As this report illustrates, there are viable strategies that leaders in government, business, community development, and philanthropy can undertake to address racial inequities and put all residents on track to reaching their potential, starting with baking equity in to its new development projects and reaching across its institutional landscape and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Just as Pittsburgh has embraced its identity as a tech-forward region, it should—and can—be a frontrunner on equitable development.

The Equity Solution: Racial Inclusion Is Key to Growing a Strong New Economy

October 22, 2014

America is quickly becoming a majority people of color nation. At the same time, inequality is skyrocketing and racial inequities—from the homogeneity of the tech sector to the segregated suburbs of St. Louis—are wide, persistent, and glaring. Equity—just and fair inclusion of all—has always been a moral imperative in this country, but a new consensus is emerging that equity is also an economic imperative. Scores of economists and institutions like Standard & Poor's and Morgan Stanley now believe that rising inequality and low wages for workers on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder are stifling growth and competitiveness, and that racial inequities threaten economic growth and prosperity as people of color become the majority.This brief offers new research to inform the debate about equity and the future of the American economy. Using data on income by race, we calculate what total earnings and economic output would have been for the nation in 2012 if racial differences were eliminated and all groups had similar average incomes as non-Hispanic whites. This analysis does not assume that everyone has the same income, rather that the income distributions do not differ by race and ethnicity. We also examine how much of the income gap is attributable to wage differences versus employment differences (measured by hours worked).

Designed for Disease: The Link Between Local Food Environments and Obesity and Diabetes

April 1, 2008

Examines the link between a community's retail food environment -- the ratio of fast-food outlets and convenience stores to grocery stores and produce vendors, with income level as a factor -- and the prevalence of adult obesity and diabetes.

Shared Prosperity, Stronger Regions: An Agenda for Rebuilding America's Older Core Cities

February 1, 2006

Explores opportunities for community collaborations to promote economic development and neighborhood revitalization, and offers strategies for public/private investment. Includes case studies in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

Healthy Food, Healthy Communities

September 1, 2005

An often-ignored contributor to poor health is lack of access to good quality, affordable healthy food. Residents in low-income communities have limited options for healthy eating and often resort to buying unhealthy foods at corner stores or fast food outlets. Certainly, people choose what they eat but their choices are based on availability. Across the nation, communities are addressing this issue, often by partnering food retailers with residents and policymakers. The PolicyLink report, Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing, examines how low-income communities are accessing healthy, affordable, good quality food - right in their neighborhoods. The report illustrates how policymakers, business leaders, community organizations, and foundations have joined together to identify ways to create innovative community-driven solutions to the food access problem across the country. The report shows how vacant land, abandoned properties, and existing smaller sites are being adapted for grocery store developments in poor communities and spurring economic development; small stores are stocking healthier options, promoting local small business development, and even turning "problem" locations into community assets; farmers' markets are sustaining small farms while providing fresh, local food, opportunities for small business development, as well as a social space. It also shows how community organizations are partnering in-sometimes even owning and operating-grocery store development, which helps build the community's economic capital and creates a more cohesive community environment. Healthy Food, Healthy Communities describes examples of successful programs in Baltimore, Boston, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Newark, New York City, Providence, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and throughout California and Pennsylvania, and showcases the important role of state and local governments in increasing access to healthy food in low-income communities. Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities through Food Retailing was funded by a grant from The California Endowment (TCE). This report builds on earlier work about the effects of community factors on health that was developed by PolicyLink in partnership with TCE, Reducing Health Disparities Through a Focus on Communities. Rebecca Flournoy and Sarah Treuhaft, who authored Healthy Food, Healthy Communities: Improving Access and Opportunities Through Food Retailing, are program associates at PolicyLink. Flournoy leads a project designed to improve access to grocery stores and other healthy food retail options in underserved communities, and advises coalitions on advocacy strategy for policies that will improve community conditions and residents' health. Treuhaft researches and writes on a variety of equitable development topics including the use of information technology tools for community building, regional equity strategies, economic development, and healthy neighborhood environments. She also provides data and mapping analysis for PolicyLink projects.