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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.

Partnering with Federal Agencies to Advance Racial Equity

May 12, 2022

Partnering with Federal Agencies to Advance Racial Equity is a report by Race Forward and PolicyLink  that describes the work that commenced in partnership with federal agency offices, considers observations and lessons learned along the way, and discusses efforts that must continue at the federal level to fully realize the intentions of the executive order and move this country toward a more racially just future.Race Forward and PolicyLink co-led a Racial Equity Governing Pilot Project with federal agencies in the fall and winter of 2021 and 2022. This report discusses critical elements of these partnership pilots and lessons to inform and support the longer term aspirations of the federal government to become actively antiracist. 

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 Equity in Year 2 of the Biden Administration

January 19, 2022

President Biden took on the monumental task of being the first administration to name equity as the responsibility of the federal government. The work of this second year must be focused on ensuring efforts to advance equity not only deepen but endure across future administrations. This brief outlines how the Biden Administration can hold itself accountable to its equity commitments and build on this foundation to ensure the federal government finally serves all people.

For Love of Country: A Path for the Federal Government to Advance Racial Equity

October 27, 2021

The nation's first comprehensive racial equity blueprint for federal agencies, For Love of Country: A Path for the Federal Government to Advance Racial Equity provides resources, tools, and a plan for federal agency leaders to implement President Biden's historic executive order on advancing racial equity. Geared toward staff working within federal agencies, For Love of Country: A Path for the Federal Government to Advance Racial Equity also includes tools that are applicable for equity advocates across the nation working inside and outside of government, including:Several key roles the federal government can use to shape racial equityThe transformative potential equity presents for key socioeconomic outcomesGuiding principles that can serve as a common foundation for the work across the federal governmentA starter tool for conducting and refining an initial equity assessmentA tool for agencies to develop a strategic vision and action plan to advance equity, and guidance on how to launch this journey

Advocating For Equity in California’s Housing Crisis

August 13, 2021

In California, a statewide network of racial and economic justice organizations are placing the housing needs of low-income communities of color at the center of efforts to advance housing justice.Read the profile to learn more about the experiences and impacts of this work from the perspectives of the community members, grassroots and community organizations, and funder partners involved.

Moving from Intention to Impact: Funding Racial Equity to Win

July 15, 2021

This joint PolicyLink-Bridgespan analysis says funders are a key part of the racial equity ecosystem: to benefit the entire nation they should both be transparent in reporting where grants go and fund what movement leaders say is needed to achieve enduring change.

The 2021 CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity: What companies can do to advance racial equity and combat systemic racism in the workplace, communities, and society

July 1, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic and our long overdue national reckoning on racial injustice have thrust into sharp relief the results of centuries of economic inequality and systemic racism. While the pandemic and its accompanying economic devastation have hurt so many, people of color and low-income communities have been hit exceptionally hard. More than 100 million people in America—half of all people of color and one-quarter of all White people—struggled to make ends meet even before the pandemic and they continue to bear the heaviest toll, even as the economy bounces back.For corporate leaders, this historic moment presents an opportunity to make lasting progress against stated commitments on racial equity and ensure the billions of dollars pledged to communities of color actually lead to equitable outcomes. Our 2021 CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity will guide you beyond diversity and inclusion commitments to the heart of the business opportunity ahead: addressing the intended and unintended impacts of your products, services, operations, policies, and practices on people of color and low-income communities, with key recommendations across the three domains of corporate influence.

Advancing Well-Being by Transcending the Barriers of Whiteness

June 24, 2021

PolicyLink, in partnership with Well Being Trust, developed Advancing Well-Being by Transcending the Barriers of Whiteness to identify "centering whiteness" as a social and institutional framework that prevents meaningful movement toward racial equity, describe specific social and economic inequities that have been exacerbated by this framework, and make clear new narratives that will be necessary for systemic and policy change. This paper, along with the companion Community Dialogue Guide, serve as the starting point for critical dialogues that deepen and build shared understanding across communities.

Toolkit for Equitable Public Safety

July 3, 2020

Across the United States, community groups are working to improve public safety and promote greater equity, transparency, and accountability in their local law enforcement agencies. They prioritize different issues and use different strategic tactics, but they are united in their desire to build safer, more just communities through the slow, hard, but lifesaving work of law enforcement reform. If you are part of one of these community groups (or want to be), this Toolkit is for you.Law enforcement reform is challenging, uphill work. Inequities in law enforcement outcomes are often deep-rooted, complex, and perpetuated by multiple different factors. Institutional resistance to necessary change is frequently strong. Conversations about increasing law enforcement equity too often reach an impasse where advocates, and those they are negotiating with, simply do not agree about what the underlying facts are. Faced with complex problems and limited resources, it can be difficult for community advocates to determine where to focus their efforts.The ultimate goal of this document is to help you assess aspects of public safety in your community and create or refine a step-by-step plan for influencing relevant stakeholders and creating the change you want to see.

Federal Policy Priorities for an Equitable COVID-19 Relief and Recovery

May 1, 2020

While Congress has taken some important initial steps, the relief packages so far have not done enough to address the challenges facing the one in three people living in or near poverty in the US. This brief outlines a number of specific policy recommendations for Congress to include in the next relief package to meet the needs of all people while building a bridge to a more equitable and climate-safe future.