In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released The Color of Wealth in Boston report, which found strikingly high racial wealth disparities in the Boston metropolitan area. The study analyzed data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC) survey, which provides data on assets and debts among subpopulations — according to race, ethnicity, and country of origin — at a granular level of detail otherwise unavailable in public datasets. Although the report sparked dynamic conversations about the importance of focusing on wealth, the large disparities along racial lines, and the crucial role public policy plays in creating or amplifying inequality, we were convinced that simply releasing research was not enough to incite change.
While there has been some progress locally on initiatives that help families build assets, the Boston metro area has a long way to go to reduce racial wealth inequalities and provide opportunities for all. Addressing racial wealth inequality requires multifaceted, complex approaches with sustained participation from different sectors. We wanted to encourage deep conversations among different sectors that could lead to action. For this reason, in fall 2016, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston convened a cross-sector working group of regional leaders to identify shared priorities and build a shared agenda to reduce racial wealth inequalities. The working group incorporated the expertise of researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and foundations. Through a six-month process of deep learning convened by the Boston Fed and facilitated by external consultant Cynthia Silva Parker, senior associate at the Interaction Institute for Social Change, the working group studied the root causes of racial wealth inequalities, suggested and prioritized possible solutions, and created a shared agenda that is summarized in this document.