Race-based Inequality of Economic Opportunity

This is our national challenge for the next 25 years, according to Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, Executive Vice President/Chief Strategy Officer for MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth’s economic development and finance authority.

Fuhrer prepared this slide presentation for a meeting with regional affordable housing experts and developers in November, 2020. Part 1 looks at projections for the financial markets and issues in tax exempt financing and how such financing can help provide more affordable housing for poor people.

Part 2, starting on slide 13, looks more explicitly at the sources of racially based economic inequality in the US. The study’s author spent decades working with the Federal Reserve and determines that research shows the scourge of Black poverty compared to other races is not due to education but rather to land use, zoning and housing finance decisions set in place by governmental agencies that have intentionally limited access to equity building opportunities for Black Americans.

Slide 18 shows the U.S. Black population in Boston region has a household median net worth of about $0. While the white population in the region has an estimated net worth of $247,000 per household.
Changing landuse and zoning policies as well as using tax exempt financing are some of the ways to remedy this long standing problem. Additional causes are listed on slide 20:

Key examples:
• Post Civil War “reconstruction” an embarrassing string of broken promises and abuse
• Social Security and unemployment insurance in the 1930s excluded domestic and agricultural workers
(65% of black workforce excluded, versus 25% of white
• Debate about whether it was intentionally discriminatory
• Housing assistance in the 1940s (e.g. Levittown written clause excludes black homeowners)
• The GI bill post WWII a tiny fraction went to black soldiers
• Housing policy post 1950s
• Welfare reforms of the 1990s
• Current: Education spending disparities; criminal justice disparities (the “War on Drugs”); policing disparities; voter registration restrictions

See the full slide presentation here.