Tag: low-income

Wage inequality in U.S. metros

The Daily WRAG will return on Tuesday, October 13. 

While wage inequality is nothing new, the problem has become a staple of many major cities across the country. In some U.S. metros with high wage inequality – like the metropolitan Washington region – there are a number of implications for those who do not earn high salaries. (City Lab, 10/7)

[…] wage inequality appears to be bound up with higher housing costs, being closely correlated with the share of income devoted to housing […]. The higher wage earners in knowledge-based metros essentially bid up the cost of housing. And while knowledge workers and the creative class make enough to cope with the increased costs, as my own research has shown, this hits extremely hard at workers in lower paid service and blue-collar jobs who increasingly cannot afford to live in these places.

– Congratulations to WRAG members Rosie Allen-Herring, president and CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area, and Nicky Goren, president and CEO of the Meyer Foundation, for being featured in The Washington Business Journal’s Power 100 list in the category of Heavy Hitters, defined as “[…] those executives who lead the most powerful organizations in town, be it for their size, their reputations or the sheer dollars they generate.” (WBJ, 10/5)

– Congratulations are also in order for WRAG members IBM and Citi Foundation for taking home awards in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Awards in the areas of Best Corporate Steward – Large Business, and Best Community Improvement Program.

HOUSING | Enterprise takes a look at housing affordability for the millennial workforce on the heels of some newly released research on the topic. (Enterprise, 10/6)

TRANSPORTATION/DISTRICT | Bikeshare services are a convenience enjoyed by many in D.C. who seek alternative ways to get around, but they are often only available in more affluent parts of the city and to those with credit cards. In an effort to better reach minority and low-income residents, the District has unveiled potential plans to expand bikeshare stations across D.C. and eliminate barriers to payment to use the services. (WaPo, 10/6)

ENVIRONMENT/PUBLIC HEALTH | MoCo becomes first major locality to ban cosmetic pesticides from lawns (WaPo, 10/6)

Are you a native to the region? Here’s some nostalgia for you in the form of local TV ads.

– Ciara

Retail sector employment rises, wages do not follow

The retail sector in D.C. has seen significant employment and sales growth over the last few years, but wages have remained stagnant. The D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis takes a look at the numbers and explores the reasons behind the slow growth that affects a number of workers in the District. (District, Measured, 9/30)

Despite the growth in the retail sector sales and employment, total payroll at retail establishments remained stagnant and earnings per employee, after adjusting for inflation, do not appear to have increased. In 1997, a retail worker in the District took home what would have been the equivalent of $25,642 today. In 2012, earnings were up by only about $1,000 compared to 1998, but down from earnings from 2007, which stood at $28,913.

Opinion: An instructor and restaurant server shares why she thinks people should stop applying labels like “low-skilled” when referring to task-oriented workers, and explains how perceptions can work to keep some people in poverty. (NYT, 10/1)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | In their continuing Matters@Hand thought-leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND explores innovative affordable housing policies from around the country. (Helping Hands Blog, 6/1)

– DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson launched an initiative to expand AP classes in high schools across the city and increase course offerings available to low-income and minority students, but the failure rate has grown rapidly for students trying to pass the college-level courses. (GGW, 9/29)

– High schools across D.C. and Virginia saw rising graduation rates in 2015, consistent with nationwide trends. (WaPo, 9/29)

The Data Are Damning: How Race Influences School Funding (Atlantic, 9/30)

ARTS | If you’ve seen some pretty inspiring garbage trucks making their way through the District lately, thank the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities  in partnership with the Department of Public Works for hosting a competition featuring the original designs of local artists. (WaPo, 9/30)

IMMIGRATION | For Immigrants, the ‘Melting Pot’ Is a Mixed Bag (City Lab, 9/30)

Hopefully, you never find yourself in an emergency situation where you need to call the police. But in the event that you do, please make sure it is not for this reason

– Ciara

Mixed feelings about major complex coming to Ward 8

Following the announcement of a new sports and entertainment complex on the St. Elizabeths East campus, some residents are expressing mixed feelings about the proposed venue. (WaPo, 9/24)

[…] in interviews with dozens of residents of this Ward 8 neighborhood, where unemployment is far higher than the national average of 5.5 percent, people were as likely to express optimism about the project’s impact on their community as they were to suggest that the city should instead be investing its money in affordable housing and better schools for their kids.

– A new report examining resources and staffing at high poverty schools looks at Montgomery County schools’ spending and suggests that much more aid should be put toward helping low-income students to close the ever-widening achievement gap in the school system. (WaPo, 9/23)

–  For many students in the region, learning to ride a bike has much more meaning than simply mastering the art of balancing without training wheels. It can also be an essential lifelong skill that gives students of various income levels an equitable educational experience, while also highlighting the need for greater cycling infrastructure throughout the District and its suburbs. (WaPo, 9/23)

HEALTH | Obesity Maps Put Racial Differences on Stark Display (NPR, 9/23)

JOBS | Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. currently has an opening in their chairman’s office for a Foundation Assistant who will primarily support the Marriott Daughters Foundation, and periodically support the Richard E. & Nancy P. Marriott and the Nancy Peery Marriott Foundations. Click here to find out more.

How well do you know science (or remember it from high school)? Take this quiz to see how you stack up.

– Ciara

Has the American Dream become an affordable apartment?

by Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

For several years now, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) has been discussing affordable housing. With an anticipated influx of residents into our area in the next decade, George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis predicts we will need 150,000 new units and that a large number of those units need to be for those in lower-income brackets.

For those lower-income individuals in the Greater Washington region, what constitutes an affordable home? I have been asking that question of many people over the last year. Folks shake their heads and say it depends. They talk about the high cost of land, the lack of government subsidies, and the need for transportation to areas on the edges of the region where the cost of land is less. But, I keep pushing. What is an affordable home in this region? That’s when the conversation turns to rental units, not houses.

It appears that there is no such thing in our region as an affordable house. According to 2013 census data,  the average household income in metropolitan Washington, D.C. was $90,149, and depending on differing information in multiple sources, the average cost to purchase a house in the region seems to be somewhere around $450,000. When you do the math, that makes the average household in our region unable to purchase the average house in the region without being fiscally imprudent.

There is something fundamentally wrong with that.

My father, uncle, and aunt were all real estate brokers. I grew up in a family that reinforced the value of home ownership. My father used to say, “You can live in it, rent it, or borrow against it.” He, like many in our country, viewed owning a home not only as the symbol of achieving the American dream, but also as one of the key elements toward financial stability.

In our region, that reality doesn’t seem to be an option for thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong, I do agree with WRAG’s current work to promote and enable the production and preservation of affordable rental units. What is the solution to homelessness? A home! We want to do everything that we can to get people into a place that they know as home. Research supports the value of having a home, not just financially, but emotionally, psychologically, and practically.

But let’s not forget that we still need to find a solution to help low-income people purchase homes. Why? Because for most people a home – whether that is a traditional house or a condominium – is the largest asset that they will ever have. That asset is often a major part of what enables a family to move into the middle class.

I continue to believe what I learned from my family years ago – owning a home is fundamental for financial security. Financially accessible home ownership. Who will work with WRAG to make that happen?

Philanthropy and its support of black-led social change efforts

Opinion: In this op-ed, Nat Chioke Williams, executive director of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation, discusses the urgent need for philanthropy to ramp up efforts to propel the Black Lives Matter movement and other black-led grassroots efforts like it, and ways foundations like Hill-Snowdon are working to answer the call. (Chronicle, 8/27).

[…] this movement is at risk if it doesn’t get the money it needs to build institutions that can capitalize on this social power. For far too many decades, black-led social-change organizations have received too little in donations to grow into the strong influencers on the American way life that they must be.

WRAG president Tamara Copeland had this to say of Mr. Williams’ op-ed and announcement:

“The Hill-Snowdon Foundation sets an important example for the philanthropic community with this announcement. Supporting black-led social change organizations sends a powerful message that needs to be heard at no time like the present. Leadership matters.”

HEALTH | Opinion: Brian Castrucci, chief program and strategy officer at the de Beaumont Foundation, writes about how real-time data on communities could work to dramatically change the way local health departments tackle neighborhood challenges. (HuffPo, 8/28)

HOMELESSNESS/DISTRICT | The District has been implementing expanded services for homeless individuals through year-round shelter placement in motels (as opposed to the usual practice of motel placement when temperatures fall below freezing) in an effort to better control the stream of homeless families seeking shelter in the winter months. (WaPo, 8/31)

HOUSING/POVERTY | When it comes to housing, terms like ‘affordable housing’ and ‘low-income housing’ are not even close to being synonymous. In a three-part series on housing in D.C., two authors take a look at why semantics are so important when we talk about those in need of secure housing.  (HuffPo, 8/25)

WORKFORCE/IMMIGRATION/VIRGINIA | In Virginia, labor advocates and officials are hoping to crack down on businesses that improperly classify immigrants as independent contract workers in an attempt to cut corners and save money. A growing number of industries in the state are engaging in the unfair practice, making enforcement difficult. (WaPo, 8/30)

– Montgomery County Public Schools are seeing record-high enrollment this year – a trend that began in 2007, and is expected to continue for years to come. Officials are calling for additional funding and higher taxes to meet growing needs. (WTOP, 9/1)

–  Report: Chronic school absenteeism is contributing to academic gaps (WaPo, 8/31)

ARTS | D.C.’s Historic Murals Are Disappearing (WCP, 8/31)

Here’s some little-known philanthropy history for the day.

– Ciara

Fairfax County schools face major budget cuts

As enrollment surges in one of the country’s biggest school systems, a task force has been looking into ways to cut $100 million from the Fairfax County schools budget. (WaPo, 8/4)

The 36-member citizen task force was charged with finding $100 million in savings. On Monday night, the district released an early draft of potential cuts, but they are far from official, and it is early in the budget process. Some of the task force’s ideas are sure to be controversial, such as saving nearly $11 million by eliminating high school sports and more than $12 million by axing activities such as yearbook and student newspapers, curtailing music and drama programs, and reducing middle school after-school activities.


Fairfax County schools are facing some of the same tough choices as districts across Northern Virginia. This year, Prince William County schools, dealing with a potential cut in revenue, weighed cuts to all school services not required by law – including full-day kindergarten, bus service and athletics. Ultimately, most of the budget was funded.

WORKFORCE/EQUITY | A remarkable look at the gap between black and white unemployment (WaPo, 8/4)

PHILANTHROPY/INEQUALITY | Opinion: Professor of  history and director of the urban studies program at Simon Fraser University, Karen Ferguson, raises questions about philanthropy’s relationship with African Americans throughout the nation’s history, and ponders the implications of the ways philanthropy has worked to respond to racial inequality. (HistPhil, 8/3)

–  To Reduce Inequality Among Neighborhoods, Make Inclusion the Central Goal (Rockefeller Foundation, 8/5)

ENVIRONMENT | City Lab takes a look at the details from President Obama’s finalized Clean Power Plan and how it may affect low-income communities. (City Lab, 8/4)

The region has gained a new national historic landmark.

– Ciara

The persistent effects of housing discrimination

The Daily WRAG will return to your inbox on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend.

The Urban Institute has released a new interactive map that shows how neighborhoods across the country have been shaped by income inequality between 1990 and 2010. According to data from the Neighborhood Change Database used to develop the map, exclusionary housing practices have largely kept low-income families in disadvantaged neighborhoods that are very difficult to escape. (City Lab, 6/29)

Nationwide, the top 10 percent of income earners live apart from the bottom 10 percent of earners. From 1990 through 2010, the neighborhoods where the wealthiest Americans live have remained relatively fixed. Meanwhile, tracts where the poorest Americans live have shifted and expanded over time—and grown poorer, too.

Exclusionary and discriminatory housing policies are one of the main tools that wealthy Americans have used to maintain wealthy neighborhoods. These bastions of prosperity enable them to consolidate, protect, and pass on their wealth.

LGBT/YOUTH | Children’s National Health Center has opened a new clinic geared toward providing specialized care and services to LGBTQ youth between the ages of 12 to 22. LGBTQ youth programming at the center is also supported by the Washington AIDS Partnership. (DCist, 7/2)

REGION | The Brookings Institution offers a profile of how young adults in the Washington region are faring within the vital areas of education, employment, and income. The analysis uses Census data on young adults between the ages of 18 to 24. (Brookings, 6/30)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Charleston, Health Care, Gay Marriage, and More: Why Advocacy Matters (Chronicle, 7/1)

DISTRICT/EDUCATION | According to a new report for fiscal years 2010 through 2013 by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor, the city has not sufficiently monitored the School Modernization Financing Act despite its passing in 2006, leading to a number of violations and the improper use of funds. (WaPo, 7/1)

There are many ways to make guacamole, but for a lot of people, this way is a no-no. In fact, it has become a pretty divisive debate.

– Ciara

Increased spending for affordable housing and homelessness following D.C. Council vote

The D.C. Council unanimously passed Mayor Bowser’s $13 million budget yesterday. As a result, major funding will go toward affordable housing and homelessness programs. Many of Bowser’s proposals remained intact, though some were slightly altered (WAMU, 5/27):

While the Council did strip out a proposed increase in the sales tax and cut funding for body-worn cameras for police, it largely left Bowser’s other initiatives — including close to $150 million in new spending for the homeless and affordable housing — intact, and in some cases even put more money towards them.

The approval of the budget drew applause from advocates for the homeless and for affordable housing, who said that the spending increases will help residents find — and stay in — homes in a city that has grown increasingly expensive in recent years.

Council, Bowser Win Big In Fight For Budget Autonomy (DCist, 5/27)

– According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, incomes for District residents born in another state rose around 12 percent, while incomes for D.C.-born residents decreased around 16 percent in the period between 2006 and 2012. (GGW, 5/27)

– With the help of community groups and local nonprofits, the area presently known as Marvin Gaye Park has undergone extreme revitalization over the years that residents hope will continue on and spread to nearby areas. (WCP, 5/28)

YOUTH | DC Trust provides a glimpse into the lives of young men of color using the cultural safe-haven of a barbershop as the backdrop for their ShopTalk Storytelling Series. In this second installment, individuals discuss the ins and outs of D.C.’s juvenile justice system that so often affects the lives of young men of color in the city. (YouTube, 3/12)

Tax Increase Plan For Schools Is Shelved By Prince George’s County Leader (WAMU, 5/28)

– Enrollment at DCPS middle schools has seen a dramatic downward trend compared with the number of students who entered kindergarten within the system. Efforts are underway to change the course of that movement and improve the city’s middle schools. (GGW, 5/27)

Your name can reveal a lot about your age, birthplace, profession, and more. How accurate are your results?

– Ciara

Reversing inequality locally and beyond

As income gaps among Americans continue to widen, should the country look toward a new progressive era or keep on the same path hoping trends will inevitably change? A number of new, long-term approaches to create a more equitable economic system have been adopted across the country in recent years, including Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH – a leading example of community wealth building initiatives in the U.S. (NPQ, 3/10)

What is encouraging is that, across the country, there are many signs that frustration is forcing exactly the kind of experimentation with new institutions that may one day become a significant part of the power base of a new politics and that may also suggest principles for larger national application—efforts that may also slowly help lay foundations for a long-term approach capable of reversing deepening inequality. Critically, at their core, these experiments involve a new principle, something quite different for the new era—at first locally, ultimately potentially nationally: the idea that wealth ownership must be democratized both in theory and in on-the-ground practice, building slowly from experiments to larger scale.

Essentially, a new strategic paradigm—the idea that democratizing ownership can begin locally—is emerging around the nation. Especially important has been the expansion of worker and community cooperatives—an old form now exploding in relevance around the nation in communities that have been left behind and writhing in pain as national and international forces both turn their backs on locality and find it impossible to enact even modest policies of significant assistance.


One particularly impressive effort involves the Evergreen Cooperatives—a complex of linked cooperative businesses owned by workers from the surrounding low-income communities and established to create green jobs (and democratized ownership) by capturing procurement dollars from the “anchor institutions” as they make their supply chains more sustainable.

Related: An initiative similar to the Evergreen Cooperatives is underway here in our region. In a post last month, Tamara shared how that vision came to fruition, with a new initiative led by City First Enterprises launching in Prince George’s County known as the Community Clean Water Management Group. (Daily, 2/18) For more information about the Community Wealth Building Initiative, check out past Daily posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

FOOD | Want to eat nutritious food? If you don’t get a raise, you’re out of luck (WaPo, 3/10)

EVENTS | On Monday, March 16 at 5:30 PM, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will hold their 2015 Annual Celebration of Philanthropy at The Mead Center for American Theater. For more information and to purchase tickets for this fun night of performances, networking and more, click here.

– The D.C. Office of Planning is looking into creating a greater supply of family housing in multi-family buildings amid a sea of new studio and one-bedroom units that cater to a very different audience in the city. (WCP, 3/11)

Advocates inclined toward housing deregulation argue that the best course of action is simply to allow more housing to be built, by lifting zoning restrictions on building height and density. Supply will then catch up with demand, and costs will come down.

But that raises the next “for whom” question, one about household composition. The majority of the new apartments and condos rising up in D.C.’s hottest neighborhoods are studios and one-bedrooms. These units cater to the young, childless professionals who have flooded the city in recent years, but don’t do much for the larger families who are feeling pinched.

– Map Fix: See Where Low-Income Families Are Being Replaced by DC Singles (DCInno, 3/10)

LGBT | A new report evaluating the status of the Metropolitan Police Department’s fulfillment of recommendations made by the Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force, shows that much more should be done in the District to better the department’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. Many of the recommendations show little-to-no progress since they were first proposed. (DCist, 3/10)

EDUCATION | Anxiety abounds as DC schools roll out new, harder tests (GGW, 3/11)

While one half of this couple may be wrapped up in email controversy, the other half has probably forgotten his password a long time ago….and has no plans to recover it.

– Ciara