Sunday, February 14, 2016
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MIRA advocates for the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees. In partnership with its members, MIRA advances this mission through policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.

Blogger: Jeff Gross
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The Color of Wealth in Boston

Growing income inequality across the United States, including wide variation by ethnic group, is a much reported story. But the even more dramatic disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity are less well known. The Color of Wealth in Boston, a ground-breaking new study on the economic well-being of Boston’s ethnic communities, has just been released by the Boston Fed's Regional & Community Outreach department, in partnership with the Ford Foundation and the Duke University's Consortium on Social Equity. The report—focused on whites and nonwhites, including U.S. born blacks, Caribbean blacks, Cape Verdeans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans—demonstrates the deep disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity for the Greater Boston region. While income supports day-to-day consumption as well as the ability to save and invest, wealth—including not just liquid assets but home and business equity, retirement accounts, and health savings—is a direct measure of families' ability to make longer term investments in homes, in education, and in business creation, and to save for retirement. Wealth in the form of liquid assets is also key to families’ ability to weather adverse economic shocks in the form of job loss, unexpected debts, illness, or other unplanned events. While it has been common to lump the financial experiences of all black and all Hispanic households together, in fact subcategories of blacks and Hispanics—for example, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, or U.S. blacks and Caribbean black immigrants—exhibit important differences. Using new data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color survey, the Boston Fed's report finds that: Nonwhite households have only a fraction of the net worth attributed to white households. While white households have a median wealth of $247,500, Dominicans and U.S. blacks have a median wealth of close to zero. Of all nonwhite groups for which estimates could be made, Caribbean black households have the highest median wealth with $12,000, which is only 5 percent of the wealth attributed to white households in the Greater Boston area. The typical white household in Boston is more likely than nonwhite households to own every type of liquid asset. For example, close to half of Puerto Ricans and a quarter of U.S. blacks lack bank accounts) compared with only 7 percent of whites. For every dollar, the typical white household has in liquid assets (excluding cash), U.S. blacks have 2 cents, Caribbean blacks 14 cents, and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans less than 1 cent. Whites and nonwhites also exhibit key differences in less-liquid assets such as homeownership, car ownership, and retirement accounts or health savings. While most white households (56 percent) own retirement accounts, only one-fifth of U.S and Caribbean blacks have them. Only 8 percent of Dominicans and 16 percent of Puerto Ricans have such accounts. Most whites—79 percent—own a home, whereas only one-third of U.S. blacks, less than one-fifth of Dominicans. Although members of communities of color are less likely to own homes, among homeowners they are more likely to have mortgage debt. Nonwhite households are more likely than whites to have student loans and medical debt Population growth in the Greater Boston region is already driven by the nonwhite population increase. In the coming decades, a significant rise in the share of nonwhite populations is projected both in Boston and nationwide. The wide racial wealth gap described in this report is a worrisome sign that many families do not have sufficient assets to offer better opportunities for future generations. As The Color of Wealth in Boston emphasizes, the financial well-being of communities of color is central to ensuring the inclusive long-term growth and prosperity of the city and the region. The staggering disparities identified in this analysis should encourage local and state policymakers and other stakeholders find policies that can help narrow the wealth divide for these communities. Such policies should include: providing opportunities for asset development; ensuring fair access to housing, credit, and financial services; ensuring equal  opportunity to good-paying jobs regardless of race or ethnicity; strengthening retirement incomes; promoting access to education without overburdening individuals with debt; and providing access to healthcare while helping minimize medical debt. Policies aimed at bridging the wealth gap should also consider the wide diversity among nonwhite populations and be targeted or adapted accordingly, and includes input from practitioners who are familiar with the unique needs and challenges different communities of color face. In short, it is time for Massachusetts—and its chief city—to start doing more to live up to being a true Commonwealth for all residents....
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STEMming the Tide

A TelescopeImmigrantslament of education reformers in recent years has been the declining share of U.S. college students entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions—and the loss of opportunity for both those students and the U.S. economy as a whole.

A  new report from the Information Technology Industry Council, the Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells another, less familiar part of this story, though one well-known to those paying attention: the growing role of immigrant workers in these same STEM industries, where the foreign-born account for 26.1% of workers with PhDs and 17.7% of master’s degree holders.

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