The concept of wealth is frequently misunderstood. It is not solely about making a lot of money. Income—the flow of resources such as salaries or wages—is only part of the equation. Wealth is the amount of assets a person owns, minus what he or she owes. In the Chicago region and across the country, there are income and wealth disparities by race and ethnicity. For example, in Cook County, for every dollar of income a White household brings in, a Latinx household brings in 64 cents, and a Black household brings in 47 cents. Nationally, despite record-long economic growth for many, White households have an average of eight times more wealth than Latinx households and 10 times more than Black households.
Racial and ethnic wealth inequality is at the core of most of the Chicago region’s thorniest challenges, from underinvestment in quality education and housing, to health disparities, to gun violence. This inequity is rooted in entrenched and inequitable systems caused by a century of racism, discrimination and segregation. We will not be able to realize our vision of a thriving, equitable and connected region until we tackle this systemic issue.
The Chicago Community Trust is focusing its strategy to close the racial wealth gap on increasing economic prosperity for current and future generations of Black and Latinx individuals and families by creating opportunities for households to increase incomes, build assets and reduce debts, while addressing the systemic structures that continue to perpetuate economic inequality.
Recognizing that income stability and growth and educational attainment are critical inputs into wealth creation, we also know that wealth inequality by race continues to persist even for middle-income educated households. As such, the Trust will advance the policies and practices that translate income, education and work into wealth. Efforts to expand and reform the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, are aimed at affording a financial cushion for the increasing number of economically vulnerable households in the Chicago area and across Illinois.
We will increase wealth-building assets in communities of color and for Black and Latinx Chicagoans. This includes supporting equitable opportunities for people to access responsible banking products, purchase and sustain homes and grow their businesses, as well as advocating for investments in our children, such as baby bonds or children’s savings accounts.
We will combat extractive, wealth-stripping financial practices through stronger regulations and consumer protections. For example, the Trust is supporting the research and advocacy to reform policies such as punitive municipal fines and fees systems and predatory lending, which disproportionately impact low-income residents and residents of color.