In order for our state to have a strong economic future, we need to ensure that all our children grow up with the resources and skills they need to become productive working adults. Unfortunately for some kids, their future prosperity is challenged by the financial circumstances of their parents and this is especially true for children of color. Just last week, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that the racial wealth gap in the United States is widening as the country comes out of the most recent recession, with the net worth of White households going up and the net worth of Black and Hispanic households declining. This also manifests itself in ongoing disparities in child poverty rates by race.
At our Race Matters Conference a couple weeks ago, we began a discussion of how to start addressing these ongoing disparities in access to economic opportunity. Day 1 started off with an interesting and lively discussion about the Heartland 2050 effort, a regional planning effort currently underway to plan for the future of our region, and how to ensure that racial equity plays a role in these plans. In the second session, Dr. Jonathan Benjamin Alvarado spoke on immigration issues and current reforms and ongoing challenges. Finally, Earl Redrick from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shared data and information on the connections between housing and economic opportunity.
The second day focused on planning for a better economic future for Nebraska by addressing barriers for children and families of color. The group envisioned a world where race becomes neither an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to economic opportunity. We talked about the wide variety of stakeholders — from local foundations, to neighborhood associations to schools — that could be engaged in these efforts and explored the multiple barriers — ranging from transportation to education to housing — that contribute to racial disparities.
The challenges are great and the conversations at the conference were just a first step, but we are so thankful — especially in light of recent events in Ferguson, New York and around the country — to have the opportunity to have challenging but productive conversations about a path forward and an inclusive economy where all our kids have the best possible opportunity to succeed. We look forward to continuing to work with a variety of stakeholders to help move the mark on economic opportunity for children of color in Nebraska.