Recent data shows that racial segregation isn’t just people of different racial and ethnic groups living in different places – it is about how such living patterns create and perpetuate inequality. Researchers at Brown University found that the average black or Hispanic household earning over $75,000 lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average white resident earning under $40,000. When looking at school quality, the team found that the average black elementary student attends a school that ranks at about the 35th percentile in the state, while the average white student’s school is at the 60th percentile. Relevant to No Child Left Behind policies, even if 10% or 20% of the lowest performing schools were closed, and the students magically relocated to average schools, the resulting racial disparities would be only modestly different.
You can read the full report and access the data used in this study here:
I went to a meeting this week at the Ford Foundation in Washington, DC to hear about new research on a matched savings program aimed to help lower-income families. The program gives people a 50% match up to $250 if they put part of their tax refunds in a savings account. They have to leave the money untouched for one year in order to get the match.
It turns out that this works really well for about 65% of the people who try it. However, the remaining 35% pull their money out before they actually get the match. One of the points that the research team made was that we can’t consider these people to have “failed” the program just because they didn’t get the match. Rather, the program likely helped them to set aside money so that when an emergency hit, they could make ends meet.
This really brought home the point that we need to let our service programs meet the needs of our clients in whatever way works best for them. Maybe that will be exactly as we planned, and maybe not. It is important to stay responsive to the needs of our clients. Hopefully our upcoming roundtable meeting will continue to build on this theme!
Roads to Justice North Carolina board member Kim Manturuk spoke last week at the Federal Reserve Conference on Community Development. The conference brought together a wide range of nationally-recognized experts in the field of community development, economic revitalization, and asset building. Kim presented research examining the experiences of low-income homeowners during the financial crisis and subsequent downturn. She found that homeowners were not disproportionately affected by the downturn compared to renters, and they actually reported feeling less stressed and insecure during the crisis. Kim concluded that policies which aim to increase access to homeownership for lower-income families remain viable asset building approaches, even in light of the downturn. She also pointed out that the people she studied had a much lower foreclosure rate than subprime borrowers, in spite of the fact that they had low credit scores, low incomes, high debt-to-income ratios, and low downpayments. This suggests that even “risky” borrowers can be successful when given responsible mortgage products.