Bridging the Racial Wealth Gap in Boston

ABCD Black History Month celebration features spirited panel discussion 

In celebration of Black History Month, ABCD President and CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler was joined by City of Boston Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu, Accordia Partners Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Jill Lacey Griffin and ABCD Director of Workforce Development and Alternative Education Ron Marlow for a community discussion about Boston’s racial wealth gap—what created it, what it means for people of color today and what it will take to close it. Paris Alston, Co-Host of GBH News Morning Edition and The Wake Up podcast served as moderator. 

Our conversation began with the facts—including the often-repeated statistic that the median net worth for white households in Greater Boston was a quarter million dollars in 2015, while for Black families, it was just $8 according to The Color of Wealth in Boston, a joint publication of Duke University, The New School, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

We’re reminded that the wealth gap is a key to other inequities: it creates pervasive economic insecurity, saps resilience in the face of a changing world and consigns rising generations to a struggle to move “up the down escalator.”

According to Idowu, one of the ways to address the racial wealth gap is “through entrepreneurship and business ownership,” he said. “Under Mayor Wu’s leadership in 2022, out of $100 million that went to diverse businesses, $30 million went to Black businesses. It takes intentional efforts from all advocates and it takes a lot of time being devoted to make this happen.”

Panelists agreed that we must focus deeply on possible solutions. The complexity of the wealth gap means there is no single answer: it must be attacked on multiple fronts. Promoting home ownership is another direct and powerful lever. “Homeownership is really important for closing the racial wealth gap,” said Lacey Griffin. Accordia Partners, LLC was formed in 2014 with the intent of pursuing large, complex, urban real estate development projects within Boston with a focus on leveraging the scale of these urban projects in order to increase the level of inclusion and diversity within the real estate, design and construction industries. She added that Accordia “prioritizes diversity and opportunity for women and people of color through the creation of 1,957 housing units in Dorchester Bay,  20% of which will be affordable rental units.” 

According to The Racial Wealth Gap: Why Policy Matters, “Labor markets are drivers of the racial wealth gap, accounting for more than 20% of its growth in the last 25 years.” We not only need to equalize incomes, but equalize the wealth returns on income — the ability of households to translate income into wealth. 

Marlow attributed flawed systems to labor market issues that contribute to the racial wealth gap in Boston. Existing systems, “Don’t meet people where they are to help them get where they want to be, he said. “We are determined to give people who have lacked access to meaningful job training opportunities in high demand, high growth occupations. We need escalators, not ladders.” 

Reducing the racial wealth gap is not only a moral imperative — it’s necessary for the economic health of our whole society.