National Equity Atlas Year in Review

Dear Atlas Users,

Happy Holidays from the National Equity Atlas team! We are thankful for another fruitful year of collaborations with local coalitions and community leaders on data projects that empower collective action, undergird advocacy, and inform policies to advance racial equity and inclusive prosperity. Here are some highlights from the past year:

Employment Equity in Southern States

In partnership with collaboratives and organizations in each state, we released a series of five briefs that lay out policy roadmaps for Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Louisiana. These briefs were all based on data analyses and modeling of a “full-employment economy,” defined as when everyone who wants a job can find one, as well as focus groups with workers seeking good jobs These reports are undergirding the employment equity work of our partners, Partnership for Southern Equity, Alabama Asset-Building Coalition, Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, Rural Forward NC, the NC Budget & Tax Center, and the Louisiana Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.

New Equity Profiles

Continuing our work to inform equitable growth strategies locally, we developed equity profiles for Sacramento, Albuquerque, Cincinnati, and Omaha. As always, each profile was produced in partnership with local leaders who are using the data in their collective action efforts. In Albuquerque, the profile data will serve as a guide for the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion as they develop their action agenda. In Cincinnati, the profile is informing the All-In Cincinnati coalition which is focusing on increasing housing affordability and stability for Black women in the city.

Other Reports and Publications

In April, we released Solving the Housing Crisis Is Key to Inclusive Prosperity in the Bay Area, produced in partnership with The San Francisco Foundation. Analyzing Zillow data on median rents, we found that two minimum-wage workers earning $15/hour can find affordable rentals in just 5 percent of the Bay Area’s 1,500 census tracts. Last month, in partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we released 100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States, which sheds new light on the 106 million Americans — nearly a third of the nation — who are living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Register here for an upcoming webinar on the report and its findings taking place on Monday, January 14, 12:00 - 1:00 pm PT / 3:00 - 4:00 pm ET.

Data in Action/Atlas in the News

Our team has also shared several blogposts adding equity data to the national dialogue about inclusive economies; those posts and our monthly email updates are archived here. And throughout the year, Atlas data and reports have also been covered by various local and national media outlets and articles, radio interviews, and more are available here.

Thank you once more for your interest in our work!

The National Equity Atlas team at PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

PolicyLink Awarded Hewlett 50 Arts Commission for “We, the 100 Million”

Art is a must-have for any thriving community. And that’s why we are proud to announce today that we have been selected as a recipient of a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission. Launched in 2017 to celebrate the foundation’s 50th anniversary, this is a five-year, $8 million initiative supporting the creation and premiere of 50 new works by world-class performing artists working in five disciplines. PolicyLink is among a group of 10 Bay Area-based non-profit organizations that will receive $150,000 each to create important and unique work that facilitates discussions around the most pressing local issues.

“We, the 100 Million,” will be a series of place-based, community-driven choreo-poems performed with music and multimedia storytelling exploring inequity in the United States. "We, the 100 Million" expands on the work of PolicyLink over the past two decades to advance racial and economic equity in the United States by combining data, policy, performance and poetry. The piece will be a 10-part spoken word performance that lifts up the lives of the 106 million Americans living near or in poverty. (See also: “100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States,” the newly published data profile that provides a breakdown of who is economically insecure in America.)

One source of inspiration for the development of the performance will be data from the National Equity Atlas (the PolicyLink partnership with the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California). Another important source will be direct engagement with people in communities across the country affected by economic insecurity. Lead artist Michael “Quess?” Moore and PolicyLink Senior Fellow and creative director of “We, the 100 Million” Jeremy Liu will work closely with our staff of researchers and public policy experts and local communities to communicate a richer and more nuanced understanding of the lived experience of 100 million Americans struggling to make ends meet.

To learn more about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission and the nine other awardees, click here.

Winning on Equity

Americans were given a clear choice at the voting booth: continue to endorse a dystopian vision of this country — one rooted in bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism — or instead aspire to the better angels of our nature and take a step in a more optimistic direction.

Millions of Americans chose to embrace the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a result, we not only witnessed a historic level of turnout for a midterm election, but a record number of women and people of color were elected to Congress. Voters in congressional districts from the heartland to the coasts sent a message that said: "enough" with the hate and fearmongering.

  • Enough with the anti-immigrant rhetoric and race-baiting.
  • Enough with the voter suppression.
  • Enough with the misogyny.
  • Enough with the lies and hypocrisy.
  • Enough.

What we saw instead is millions of Americans supporting candidates who endorsed the cause of equity — just and fair inclusion for all — as the best way for everyone to participate, prosper, and reach our full potential. Around the country, voters came out in favor of progressive policies protecting health care, creating more affordable housing, and adopting measures to strengthen representation for all voters by establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions.

Not every race turned out favorably for the cause of equity — and we suffered some tough setbacks that will require more hard work ahead.

We've also been challenged to turn away from the wishful thinking of the past that said "someone else will advance our cause."

It's on us.

It's on us to free our democracy from its history of oppression built on racism, misogyny, and greed.

It's on us to use our power to rewrite the rules that have concentrated wealth and power in the hands of a few, so that our elected officials become responsive to our concerns.

It's on us to ensure that people who were previously left out can participate fully in our economy and society.

With renewed hope, while recognizing so much work remains, let's redouble our efforts to ensure everyone can do well in this great country and reach their full potential. Whatever cause you embrace — removing barriers to work, increasing affordable housing, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting the vote — let's celebrate the fact that we are in this fight together, because our futures are intertwined.

It's on us.

Act Now to Defend Trans Rights!

An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us!

The present Administration continues to demonstrate that the society it seeks for America is the exact antithesis of an equitable society. An equitable society is one in which ALL can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. The New York Times reported this weekend that the Trump Administration intends "to establish a legal definition of sex" that would "exclude [transgender individuals] from civil rights protections under federal civil rights law." Such actions defy the very principles of equity and put the Administration's inhumanity once more on full display.

The proposal would impact the lives of two million people, causing disarray and revoking equal access to health care, housing, education, and fair treatment under the law. Like so many efforts promoted by this Administration, the proposal ignores the legal and medical precedents, strong science, and general decency and compassion that undergird these supports for transgender individuals.

We must all lift our voice to register our outrage at this blatant bigotry. Let this Administration know that we will not stand by quietly while it attacks any of us. The strength of the equity movement lies in our solidarity. An attack on any of us, is an attack on all of us!


  • Contact senior Administration officials. Let them know that you are opposed to any proposed rule that would strip transgender — or any — people of their civil rights and other protections.

Equity Is the Driving Force: How Advocacy Led to Oakland’s New Cultural Development Plan

By Francis Yu, PolicyLink Arts & Culture 2018 Intern

The Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC) – which brings together cultural organizations, neighborhoods, artists and residents of color – has accomplished many feats in the few years of its advocacy and community organizing in Oakland, a city that locals proudly refer to as “The Town.” From being an integral component in budget wins that led to the hiring of Roberto Bedoya, the city’s first cultural affairs manager in fall 2016, and increasing grants funds for local artists and organizations last summer, OCNC has proven to be a critical community voice and has won on several equitable arts and culture policies in a city that has been lacking in such policy work for more than a decade.

On September 17, the City of Oakland released Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Development Plan, in addition to announcing a restructured and expanded arts grant program, approving 80 projects totaling over $1 million.  The plan, one of OCNC’s original policy goals it identified several years back, is a guiding framework that centers on a cultural equity lens in developing policy, apparent in its tagline: ”Equity is the driving force. Culture is the frame. Belonging is the goal.” Through this framework, both community groups and city officials can design policies and interventions rooted in equity – just and fair inclusion for all. Anyka Barber, co-founder of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition, adds that, “cultural equity is going to be about making sure that equitable implementation happens.”

Below is a diagram that shows the process of how Oakland’s civic leaders, advocates, and residents informed the development of the plan.

A unique and defining feature of Oakland’s cultural plan is its purposely broad nature: by looking at how cultural equity applies to broader policy areas, strategic development of specific policies and programs would center and consider its effects on the culture and identity of Oakland’s residents. “The goal of this plan was to bust the framing of culture within policies wide open, to not see it in a narrow way,” says Vanessa Whang, who authored the plan under Bedoya. She emphasized the importance of looking at “culture as ways of being,” which has broader implications on the cultural aspects of other city agencies and departments.

This was an important organizing principle for OCNC in that this frame values culture as critical to one’s identity and broadens their advocacy efforts to the community at-large, who feel the city’s culture is under threat as Oakland experiences rapid change. “The displacement of culture and knowledge – cultural entities, churches, spaces – are part of a systemic erasure of community,” states Barber. The threat of this change is critical to the formation and the work around arts and culture that OCNC has undertaken.

As OCNC moves to its next chapter, a cultural development plan that centers on cultural equity provides a shared language communicating the importance of culture as OCNC strengthens its relationships with other advocacy organizations such as ReFund Oakland, a multisector coalition that organized around the City of Oakland’s budget and was integral to OCNC’s policy wins. OCNC is also currently advocating for the re-establishment City of Oakland Arts & Culture Commission, which has been inactive since 2014.

Funding from The Kresge Foundation and support from PolicyLink has supported the work of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition. PolicyLink has provided capacity and technical assistance in helping prepare OCNC leadership to develop, frame, and organize their policy agenda;  prepare for meetings with elected officials; and build and support their communications strategies. Additionally, Leon Sykes, who helps in the operations of OCNC, emphasized the role of OCNC’s presentation to the 2018 PolicyLink Equity Summit. “It was important in helping us realize just how much work we’ve accomplished.”

California Needs to Do More to Advance Climate Justice

Tomorrow launches a week of global action and gatherings to deepen commitment and accelerate action to tackle climate change. Around the world, indigenous people, frontline communities, and their allies, will be gathering in thousands of cities and towns to demand that our leaders commit to building a fossil free world that puts people and justice before profits.

This call to action comes at a critical time for California, which is why PolicyLink will be joining partners in our home state to Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice! While California has been lifted up as a leader on climate policy and inclusion, the reality is that for low-income communities and communities of color, we have a long way to go to deliver on equity and ensure that all Californian’s can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.

Today, approximately one third of our state’s residents, more than 14 million people who are disproportionately of color, are living at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. By just about every health indicator (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity) communities of color fare worse than their white counterparts. For decades studies have told us that people of color are disproportionately exposed to harmful air pollution and a recent national study found that the pollution exposure disparity between White and non-white communities in California is among the starkest in the nation. In fact, a report by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessmentfound that one in three Latinos and African Americans live in census tracks ranked as having the highest pollution burden and vulnerability in California. In contrast one in 14 Whites live in these census tracts.

These disparities are not accidental. They are the result of historic and ongoing racial bias and discrimination in policy and practice that have segregated people of color in communities that lack the basic characteristics of a healthy place, have cut individuals and entire communities off from economic opportunity, and have used our political and justice systems to isolate and criminalize people of color.

Climate change, and the devastating impact it is already having on low-income communities and communities of color is another manifestation of these structural inequities. While California has made some important strides in addressing climate change we have not done enough to ensure that our policies advance equity and climate justice. It is time for California to step up to this challenge.

  • Transition to 100 Percent Renewable Energy. California has led the nation in its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, our state institutions continue to put forward policies, investments, and programs that perpetuate our dependence on fossil fuels. The time for fossil fuels is over. For too long our communities and our planet have suffered the negative consequences of fossil fuel extraction, refining, transport, burning, and disposal. California needs to join Indigenous and environmental justice leaders to accelerate a full transition to a fossil free clean energy future.
  • Build Community Resilience. Reducing carbon emissions is critical to slowing and minimizing the impact of climate change but climate change is already here, and low-income communities and communities of color are suffering the consequences. California needs to move beyond thinking about climate adaptation as disaster recovery and needs to tackle the systematic and structural inequities our communities experience. This will require significant, immediate, and sustained investment of public resources to reduce social, economic, and health disparities and ensure that all communities have the physical infrastructure, social institutions, and economic opportunities required to thrive before, after, and despite climate change impacts.
  • Ground Solutions in Community LeadershipThe people closest to our State’s challenges have the solutions to solve them. When the voice, wisdom, and experience of impacted communities drive policymaking processes, profound transformations happen. Policymakers need to partner with impacted communities to eliminate the climate gap and secure a future where all can flourish.

Join us in San Francisco tomorrow, or in your own community, as we call on our elected leaders to commit to a just and fair transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

The Next Chapter for PolicyLink Begins

Today marks the official beginning of the next chapter in the PolicyLink story as Michael McAfee becomes the new President and CEO of PolicyLink. As Founder in Residence, Angela Glover Blackwell will continue to serve as a resource to the organization and the national equity movement.

"I'm honored and excited by the opportunity to lead this talented organization at such a critical moment in history, and I'm deeply humbled to follow Angela, who has been the guiding light and force behind the national equity movement for decades," says McAfee. "I'm eager to build on the many successes of PolicyLink and to work with our partners to make racial and economic equity a reality for every person living in America."

"Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for me and for PolicyLink," states Glover Blackwell. "I'm looking forward to having time to write, speak, and pursue new equity endeavors under Michael's fresh and inspirational leadership."

Join us in celebrating this exciting time for PolicyLink. Connect with
@PolicyLink, @mikemcafee06, and @agb4equity on Twitter or Facebook, and sign up for our issue-based emails.

For more information, read the full press release.

Baltimore Reckons with Its Racist Past—and Present

Crossposted from The American Prospect

Just over a century ago, in 1911, the Baltimore city council adopted the first residential segregation law in the country, forbidding black people from living in predominantly white neighborhoods. Though the Supreme Court ruled such policies unconstitutional seven years later, the consequences of the law, as well as the consequences of subsequent racist policies and practices like redlining, the displacement of black families, and mass incarceration remain. Today, Baltimore is one of the most segregated cities in the nation, where black residents make up a majority of the population but do worse than the average black American—and far worse than the average white Baltimore resident—on almost every measure of general well-being.

But over the past decade, Baltimore and other city governments have taken active steps to reverse the centuries of inequality that remain embedded in policy and practice. After all, if inequality was written into law, can’t it be written out?

Last week, Baltimore’s Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh signaled that she would sign two bills that would incorporate racial equity practices into city government. One bill requires agencies to assess the equity of proposed and current policies and address disparities, while the other allows voters to decide in November whether an equity fund will be established in the city charter. Such a fund would provide money to projects fighting racism. The legislation received unanimous support from the city council, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Read the rest of the article in The American Prospect>>>

Guiding Principles for Opportunity Zones

As the U.S. Treasury Department begins the process of implementing Opportunity Zones under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, it is essential that Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds benefit low-income residents and small businesses within the Zones — protecting the interests of those most susceptible to displacement that too often result from private investment.
Investments in Opportunity Zones should improve the lives of people living in or near poverty within the Zones, and allow all residents to fully participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Using the following recommendations, city and state officials, equity advocates, philanthropic leaders, investors, and developers can ensure that investments are equitable and help prevent displacement.

We also encourage you to send your governor and/or the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury a letter to urging them to adopt these recommendations to ensure that investments in Opportunity Zones benefit low-income community residents.

Counting a Diverse Nation — Disaggregating Racial/Ethnic Data to Advance Health Equity

How we measure America's rapidly expanding diversity has critical implications for the health of the nation. Too often, the data used to drive policymaking, allocate resources, and combat health disparities is based on broad racial and ethnic categories that can render the unique needs, strengths, and life experiences of many communities invisible.

That is why PolicyLink is excited to release Counting a Diverse Nation: Disaggregating Data on Race and Ethnicity to Advance a Culture of Health, a multifaceted investigation that explores the leading issues and opportunities of racial/ethnic data disaggregation, and its implications for advancing health equity. The report provides a comprehensive assessment of racial and ethnic data disaggregation practices today, and concrete recommendations for improving research methods and promoting government policies that enhance and enable data disaggregation in the future.


Findings and recommendations in the report encompass two areas:

  • Best practices for collecting and analyzing data about race and ethnicity at more detailed levels, including research innovations and special considerations for studying marginalized populations;
  • Government policies and practices that can enhance and enable data disaggregation, including recent campaigns and policy wins across the nation that are supporting increased representation across racial, ethnic, and cultural identities.

Developed as part of a multiphase project commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report reflects two years of collaborative research and input among a diverse set of experts, demographers, practitioners, decision makers, and advocates. Reviews by these researchers of the state of data disaggregation for each major U.S. population group, along with a comparative study of seven other countries, accompany the new report

To learn more about the critical importance of disaggregating racial/ethnic data from researchers, advocates, and other experts who contributed to this report, listen to the archived webinar.