Connecting state and local government leaders
A new online tool from the Urban Institute allows leaders to assess a community’s financial benchmarks and maps them to policies to address racial inequity.
Local leaders looking to make data-informed decisions about wealth gaps can turn to a new tool that illustrates disparities at the community level.
The Urban Institute’s new Financial Health and Wealth Dashboard allows users to break the data down into several categories, including what percentage of an area’s population has at least $2,000 in emergency savings, the share of residents with delinquent debt, and the median credit score of the community.
“This dashboard aims to help local leaders and changemakers answer questions about the financial health of residents and identify local solutions to tackle the multiple facets of financial well-being,” said Urban Institute researcher Oriya Cohen in an email to Route Fifty.
Financial health—as Urban Institute defines it—includes the ability to manage daily expenses, withstand economic shocks and build wealth.
The tool includes race demographics at the local, state and national levels and users can compare different communities. It also offers racially disaggregated data at the city level for 107 of the country’s largest cities, Cohen said.
The dashboard also offers ideas for how local leaders can meet the needs of residents, such as reducing public transportation fares, working with local institutions to issue credit-building loans, and working with workforce development groups to offer sector-based skills training for in-demand jobs.
Many of the suggestions are geared toward closing the racial wealth gap. For example, the dashboard notes that Black students often borrow more money for college and later have more trouble paying off their loans compared to other students with similar education levels at comparable institutions. To address this, Urban Institute recommends local officials advocate for lower tuition and work with community institutions and philanthropies to create scholarships and savings accounts.
Racial disparities in wealth are often the result of historical and systemic barriers, and the strategies outlined in the dashboard are meant to spark ideas about where local leaders can invest to close those gaps and improve residents’ financial wellbeing, the report says.
Urban Institute researchers in a blog post examined how local officials in Washington D.C. could use the dashboard to connect data trends to real-world solutions. For example, residents living east of the Anacostia River are more likely to hold deliquent debt, but officials could attempt to provide relief by ditching municipal fines and improving acess to banking and debt forgiveness programs.
The Urban Institute used data from a major national credit bureau and estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to create the dashboard.
To visit the dashboard, click here.
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.