How Philanthropy Can Address the Racial Wealth Gap

A new report explores the evolution of the Ford Foundation’s work on the racial wealth gap and provides recommendations for how the philanthropic sector can more effectively address the issue

Today, the Roosevelt Institute released a report that examines how the Ford Foundation, which is widely credited for elevating the racial wealth gap (RWG) within the public debate, helped set the stage for future policy change and continuing work on this topic by the broader philanthropic community. Co-authored by Roosevelt Fellows Andrea Flynn and Rakeen Mabud, the report finds that Ford’s early “big bet” investments illuminated the root causes of racial wealth inequities and laid the foundation for the bold policy solutions that are getting attention today.

Insight from the authors:

“The Ford Foundation’s work brought the RWG to the forefront of political debate when few policymakers were focused on it,” said Flynn. “Numerous challenges remain in addressing these problems, but Ford’s work dramatically enhanced the field’s understanding of the racial dimensions of wealth and the extent to which that inequality is borne from policies put in place by our government historically and today.”

“Economic and racial inequality are on the rise, and those in power are continuing to maintain the rules and institutions that reinforce this inequality,” said Mabud. “There are great opportunities, particularly in the current political environment, for the philanthropic sector to advance Ford’s work by investing in blue-sky thinking around policy solutions that could effectively address the RWG and by supporting grassroots efforts.”

In its conclusion, the report calls on grantmakers to invest in building solutions that tackle barriers to asset building for communities of color, both historical barriers—such as redlining—and present-day barriers—like tax policies that favor the wealthy—that strip wealth from those communities. The report also highlights the need for policies at the local, state, and federal level that are needed to truly address the racial wealth gap.

[1] The Roosevelt Institute receives funding from the Ford Foundation. All research findings are based on independent Roosevelt Institute research.


About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

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