In Angela Glover Blackwell’s essay in What It’s Worth, she talks about her childhood and how she was fortunate to have access to community assets that provide “ladders for success.” While these assets created a pathway to financial security that included college for many in her community, she acknowledges that similar “communities of opportunity” are not the reality for many families of color.
In Illinois, there are significant disparities in opportunity between majority white communities and communities of color. According to the 2016 Illinois Poverty Report, poverty rates are two to three times higher for Illinoisans of color. Black children in Illinois are nearly four times more likely to live below the poverty line than white children. When we look beyond income to wealth, we see even more disparity. While about 16 percent of white households are asset poor, almost half of all black households and 40 percent of all Hispanic households live in asset poverty. Families experiencing asset poverty don’t have enough emergency savings to meet an unexpected expense or long-term savings to build financial security. Without assets and the financial footing that comes with them, financially vulnerable families and communities are missing rungs in the crucial “ladders for success” that Blackwell writes about.