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Changing the Odds: Comprehensive Solutions for Atlanta's Future

May 2, 2024

In 2015, the Foundation released Changing the Odds: The Race for Results in Atlanta, which explored systemic barriers that keep Atlanta's kids from reaching their full potential. Exploring data on the communities where children and their families live, their educational experiences and outcomes and their access to economic opportunities, the 2015 report highlighted a racial divide between wealthier, majority-white communities to the north of Interstate 20 (I-20) and lower-income communities of color to the south. Charged with the need to identify solutions to address the barriers to opportunity revealed by the data, the Foundation convened a group of local leaders to form the Changing the Odds Network during the development of the report in December 2014. Four years later, the Foundation's Changing the Odds: Progress and Promise in Atlanta report reexamined the data and proposed policies and approaches — several of them advanced by members of the Changing the Odds Network — that showed promise for dismantling the barriers to opportunity faced by Atlanta families. As in many communities across the country, Atlanta residents experienced devastating setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, with disparate effects for Black children, young adults, families and communities. The pivot to online learning quickly revealed long-standing educational inequities, including unequal access to digital technology. Black children were less likely to have access to computers and digital devices as well as the broadband connections necessary for virtual learning, while their parents were less likely to be able to work virtually from their homes. Black Atlantans experienced a disproportionate number of deaths caused by the pandemic in part due to being more likely to be exposed to the virus from holding positions as frontline workers and facing greater barriers to health care access.Atlanta is a city of great promise, but we know that opportunity isn't evenly distributed. This 2024 report builds on the first two Changing the Odds reports, shining a light on disparities, progress and promising solutions led by organizations and coalitions to ensure all Atlantans can live in thriving communities, receive a quality education and have access to economic opportunity to realize their full potential.

2023 Georgia Civic Health Index

December 14, 2023

In 2013, Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP)—along with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, GeorgiaForward, and the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC)—published the first Georgia Civic Health Index. A second edition was published in 2019 in partnership with GaFCP, NCoC, and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), launching conversations and action across our state.This third edition of the Georgia Civic Health Index examines the way Georgians interact with each other, with their communities, and in political life. It allows us to see the ways Georgia's civic health has changed since 2013 and explores the ways civic participation varies across demographic variables, including income, educational attainment, age, race and ethnicity, and geography. This report also compares Georgia's rates of civic participation to other states and to national averages, so that—together—we can support and broaden existing conversations, initiate new dialogues, explore and implement evidence-based practices, and implement strategies at all levels to strengthen civic health and communities.

Local Lockout in Georgia: Why Underrepresentation in County-Level Governments Persists

November 28, 2023

All politics is local, but local institutions often evade national scrutiny. City and county governments make policy decisions that impact daily life and animate political identity: how to run just and effective police forces, how to maintain roads and deploy emergency services, and how to operate public schools that educate and enrich future generations. They have also become cultural flash points in social movements for racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights. Local elections offer critical opportunities for communities to address the issues that most directly affect them, participate in the political process, and cultivate political talent for higher office.Since 2010, rapidly growing communities of color have reshaped Georgia's demographic and political makeup, yet the state's county governing structures have been slow to reflect that change. Many factors contribute to these disparities, among them the electoral practices shaped by the Republican-dominated state legislature that create structural barriers to elected office. Compounding this problem are the legislature's unprecedented efforts to intervene in local redistricting precisely where communities of color are tipping political scales.This report draws on 2023 state voter file data to analyze the racial and gender identity of current members of Georgia's 159 county commissions and their respective school boards. People of color are dramatically underrepresented among Georgia's county government officials. They constitute nearly 50 percent of the state's population, yet as of February 2023, only 27 percent of county commission seats and 29 percent of county school board seats statewide were held by people of color. The average Georgia county has about half as many people of color on its county commission and school board as would be predicted given its population and school enrollment composition, respectively. Underrepresentation is more pronounced in these local offices than in state or federal ones. 

Election Budgeting: A Deeper Dive Into the Cost of State Elections

November 9, 2023

This report expands upon aspects of MIT's The Cost of Conducting Elections by looking at budgeting from the state and county budgeting perspective.The report covers how states and local governments choose to fund their elections, the role of private and public grants, and the differences between states and some of their counties. For this report, we parsed through the budgets of eight states, and within each of those states, two counties, for a total of 24 entities.The baseline funding of the elections systems of states and localities, while difficult to uncover and parse through, is available on public government websites or through public records requests filed with the appropriate parties.After a deep dive into the way these states and counties fund their elections, several themes emerged, but even more importantly, several big questions about what is next for the election system in our country.

Protecting Voter Registration: An Assessment of Voter Purge Policies in Ten States

August 10, 2023

An inclusive democracy demands full access to the ballot by all eligible voters, yet many states use election procedures that create unnecessary burdens on the right to vote. This report focuses on an important but often overlooked voting barrier: voter purges. Too often, registered voters are kicked off the voter rolls in error, with little or no notice and opportunity to correct the error. When these voters show up to the polls, they may be turned away and their voices silenced—even though they are fully eligible to vote.Between the close of registration for the 2020 general election and the close of registration for the 2022 general election, states reported removing 19,260,000 records from their voter registration rolls. This was equal to 8.5% of the total number of voters who were registered in the United States as of the close of registration for the 2022 general election. Of course, some removals are necessary for the proper maintenance of voter rolls, such as for persons who have died or have moved away from their voting jurisdiction. One of the most frequent reasons for purging, however, was "inactivity," or failure to respond to a confirmation notice and not voting in at least two consecutive federal general elections. This reason accounted for more than a quarter of all removals while 26.8% and 25.6% were for address change or death of the registrant, respectively.Flawed voter purge practices–such as removals for inactivity or based on inaccurate identification of felony status or citizenship status—often disproportionately target voters of color, naturalized citizens, and other communities, and can prevent many eligible persons from exercising their right to vote. In addition, too many states lack readily available data on voter purges, which prevents advocates, organizers, and voters from stopping improper purges before they happen or correcting an erroneous purge in time for an election. As a result, tens of thousands of eligible voters who have taken all the necessary steps to exercise their right to vote are wrongly prevented from making their voices heard in our democracy.Dēmos conducted an analysis of voter removal practices, the safeguards in place to protect eligible voters from disenfranchisement, and the accessibility and transparency of voter registration data across ten states: Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. The voter removal laws we analyzed include both routine list maintenance laws—those allowing election officials to remove voters who have moved, died, or otherwise become ineligible to vote—and more problematic practices, such as laws targeting voters for removal for not voting (also known as a "use it or lose it" process), allowing mass third-party challenges to voters' registrations, and granting catch-all removal authority to election officials without proper safeguards. We evaluated these states on four dimensions:Does the state follow practices that minimize the risk of erroneous removal?Does the state have safeguards in place that allow persons who were erroneously purged to correct their information and vote at election time?Does the state have accessible data on voter removals?Does the state provide transparency on the reasons for removal and other data allowing an analysis of whether removals are improperly targeting specific demographic groups?

Divided by Design

July 31, 2023

Low-income communities and communities of color have been and continue to be disproportionately harmed by our approach to transportation in the United States. This damage has come in many forms, but most egregiously through the manner in which the U.S. constructed of the Interstate Highway System. A growing understanding of this reality helped lead to the creation of new provisions and programs aimed at undoing some of this damage in the November 2021 infrastructure bill. But these steps were modest and policy interventions continue to focus largely on past harms or small, insufficient reforms, ultimately failing to grapple with the reality that the fundamental approach of our current transportation program creates and exacerbates inequities.Past decisions, including routing the Interstate Highway System through communities of color, dividing and often demolishing them in the process, still shape our built environment. And most importantly, the foundation of the modern transportation program was built on models, measures and standards that have their roots in this era. Without a fundamental change to the overall approach to transportation, today's leaders and transportation professionals, no matter their intent, will perpetuate and exacerbate the damage.

On the Front Line for Democracy: All Voting is Local and All Voting is Local Action Impact Report, Year One: June 2022-June 2023

July 7, 2023

One year ago, All Voting is Local (All Voting) launched as an independent organization. For the four years prior, we had been part of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, which stood up All Voting in March of 2018 as a collaborative campaign together with the ACLU, the American Constitution Society, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Our mission then—as now—was to build, hand in hand with impacted communities, sustained and locally tailored advocacy campaigns focused on state and local election ofcials. Our aim: to ensure that voters, particularly those who have long been cut of from access to the ballot, can cast their vote and know it will count.Through this report, you will have the chance to learn more about the work of the first year of All Voting and AVL Action—our 2022 cycle work starting in June of last year and the organizations' eforts to impact policy and legislation through to publication. You'll hear about our plans for the future, including our "moonshot" of ending election sabotage. 

Building the Democracy We Need for the Twenty-First Century

June 21, 2023

This toolkit situates collaborative governance, also known as "co-governance," within a framework for building community that sees civic education, relationship building, and leadership development as essential first steps toward an effective and sustained participatory process. It offers key takeaways and best practices from effective, ongoing collaborative governance projects between communities and decision makers. The best of these projects shift decision-making power to the hands of communities to make room for more deliberation, consensus, and lasting change. Building on the lessons of successful case studies from across the United States, including Georgia, Kentucky, New York, and Washington, this toolkit aims to support local leaders inside and outside government as they navigate and execute co-governance models in their communities.

People + Places, Now + Then: The Kresge Foundation 2022 Annual Report

June 20, 2023

This annual report highlights how work Kresge supported in 2022 invested in people's dreams and communities' aspirations and how Kresge has done so for almost a century. Five immersive multimedia stories center on partners in Memphis, Detroit, Toledo and Atlanta.

Wealth Opportunities Realized Through Homeownership (WORTH): Baseline Report

May 15, 2023

This report is part of an evaluation of the Wealth Opportunities Realized through Homeownership (WORTH) initiative. Led by the Wells Fargo Foundation, WORTH supports efforts to close persistent disparities in homeownership in Atlanta, Houston, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, San Diego, and rural and tribal areas. In each market, we examine housing supply and demand, homebuying activity, homeownership trends, and preservation conditions. We found that in almost every market, white households have higher homeownership rates than every other racial or ethnic group. Moreover, macroeconomic forces driving market conditions, like higher interest rates and moderating house prices, can significantly dampen or thwart market collaboratives' efforts to boost homeownership rates for people of color. Future evaluation will examine the implementation processes used in each market. The larger body of work contributes to understanding the crucial connection between homeownership and wealth-building and the multitude of barriers that households of color face in achieving homeownership. It also supports research-backed strategies for increasing homeownership for households of color and for reducing racial disparities.

Increased Wellness and Economic Return of Universal Broadband Infrastructure: A Telehealth Case Study of Ten Southern Rural Counties

April 25, 2023

This project examines 10 counties in rural Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi to explore how the costs of achieving true digital equity - by extending robust broadband infrastructure into areas missing it - can be offset by utilizing the potential of telehealth to improve healthcare delivery.To do so, this report first identifies the most common health issues affecting residents in these 10 counties, and draws on academic scholarship to demonstrate the benefits that could come from effective telehealth interventions for each. These conditions include diabetes, chronic respiratory disease (including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema), heart disease and heart failure, cancer, obesity, and mental health conditions associated with other health conditions, resulting in high overall costs and adverse effects on people's quality of life, like depression and PTSD.Second, it models the cost savings that can be gained from telehealth interventions in reducing the cost of services that are driving the highest costs today. These include preventable hospital admissions, preventable hospital readmissions, and preventable emergency department visits. It also calculates other recapturable savings that would benefit these communities at large, including the lost economic productivty that goes along with missed work, the avoidable transportation costs that come from being able to visit the doctor remotely, and the avoidable carbon emissions that come from driving to in-person doctor visits.The results are striking by themselves, but even more so together. By the most reasonable conservative estimates, we show that preventable emergency department visits, preventable hospital admissions and readmissions, and lost economic productivity offer huge savings opportunities for these ten counties, totaling almost $43 million each year.

The South Has Something to Say - An Examination of Student Loan Debt in the South Part One: Atlanta

April 13, 2023

This paper series is an expansion of the Student Borrower Protection Center's exploration of the geography of student debt disparities and the economic distress that borrowers of color, particularly those who are Black and Latino, face in the student loan market. Research has increasingly shed light on the vast racial disparities present in the student debt crisis. Beyond rising balances and unaffordable monthly bills, student debt has far-reaching effects on the lived experience of student loan borrowers and the communities in which they live.In 2020, the SBPC published Disparate Debts, an examination of racial disparities in student debt burdens and borrower distress across US cities in general and in DC, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco in particular. Expanding on Disparate Debts, this series, Student Debt in the South, leverages previous work to examine the intersection of race and student debt throughout the South, including efforts to highlight the burdens that student loan borrowers face in both cities and rural communities.As a part of the Student Loan Law Initiative (SLLI) and in partnership with the University of California Berkeley, we have analyzed proprietary data from the University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UCCCP) data on the far-reaching effects of student debt in several metropolitan and rural areas across the South. The descriptive and demographic insights gleaned from these data help us understand the local effects of rising student debt and borrower distress and to underscore where the student debt crisis disproportionately affects certain communities, particularly communities of color.The first report in this series focuses on the city of Atlanta, providing a case study on the effects of student debt on the Black middle class and the shifting impacts of student debt on communities of color over the past decade.