Urban America Forward Forum Addresses Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide

The University of Chicago has announced the launch of a new program that will offer $35,000 grants to racial justice advocacy organizations to enhance their capacity to engage in financial empowerment and wealth-building work in their cities. The grants were announced on October 23, during the first day of Urban America Forward: Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide, a two-day convening that brought together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from cities across the country, to share proven models and tools, and identify action-oriented approaches to minimizing the racial wealth gap. 

“As an urban research and anchor institution, the University of Chicago is committed to identifying evidence-based solutions to the challenges facing our cities,” said Derek Douglas, vice president for civic engagement and external affairs at the University of Chicago. “This Urban America Forward convening on the racial wealth divide is an essential forum for us because it seeks to improve the quality of life for urban residents through faculty research that can be scaled to have a broader impact. It also builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations to do the critical work in the community, which are among our top civic engagement priorities.”

According to data released by the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, the earnings gap between African-American men and white men is the same now as it was 60 years ago for the median worker, although targeted, race-specific policies have been effective in expanding access to top-tier educational opportunities and high-wage professions. Another recent report shows that black and Latino median household wealth lags far behind their white counterparts, and has been declining over the last three decades. At the Urban America Forward: Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide forum, attendees explored action-oriented methods to reverse these alarming trends through panel discussions and breakout sessions examining the four main pillars of wealth accumulation: financial education, debt reduction and long-term savings; homeownership; skills improvement; and entrepreneurship.  

John Rogers, Jr., Chairman, CEO & Chief Investment Officer, Ariel Investments Institute & University of Chicago Board of Trustees, shared his insights on lagging racial wealth equality in Chicago.
Photo by Nancy Wong

“Faculty affiliated with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture are especially eager to work with practitioners to better understand how systems of inequality and racism stagnate the economic opportunities and mobility of marginal communities,” said Cathy J. Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

The Urban America Forward series was launched in 2015 by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, with support from the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement. Urban America Forward: Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide partners include the Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, Prosperity Now, Ariel Investments, LLC, and lead sponsor The Prudential Foundation.

“Prudential remains committed to its founding mission of helping all people achieve financial wellness. We work closely with our partners, including the University of Chicago’s Urban America Forward, to bridge the wealth gap in the United States,” said Shané Harris, vice president of corporate giving, Prudential Financial and executive director, The Prudential Foundation. “Convenings like this one are critical to understanding the barriers that prevent communities of color from sharing equally in America’s wealth and the solutions needed to address them. We are also proud to partner on the Urban America Forward Catalyst Grant Competition to support collaborations between racial justice advocacy organizations and municipal partners as they tackle inequities that perpetuate wealth disparities in America’s cities.”

Nearly 150 people attended the two-day convening, including representatives of the civil rights organizations Unidios US (formerly National Council of La Raza), the National Action Network, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, LULAC, Chicago Urban League,  Equal Rights Center, and Demos. Organizations attending Urban America Forward: Bridging the Racial Wealth Divide are eligible to apply for the catalyst grants, which are being funded by the Prudential Foundation.

Originally posted October 30, 2017.

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