Using Economic Data
As noted in the Data Lever in United Way’s Equity Framework, using data is a critical strategy for advancing equity. Consistent use of disaggregated data helps surface persistent racial gaps and disparities, better understand who is most impacted by an issue, and identify root causes so that United Ways can work with other stakeholders to develop equity centric goals and strategies.
In economic mobility, use of data can help unearth and deepen understanding of persistent socioeconomic inequalities, many of which have their origins in racist, discriminatory practices and policies. Disaggregated data on a range of economic indicators, including wages, employment, home and business ownership, poverty, household income, net worth, and access to financial products (e.g. credit, loans, bank accounts), combined with context regarding past discriminatory practices in lending, housing, employment, and education creates a more comprehensive picture of the structural disparities in access, opportunities, and resources that help to explain the scope and magnitude of current socioeconomic inequities.
This kind of storytelling is critical to increasing awareness, building shared understanding, and developing widespread support for solutions that are explicitly designed to close racial economic disparities. Using data to understand the historical origins of the persistent racial wealth gap, for example, can help United Ways work with partners to strategize solutions that go beyond shoring up families and stabilizing finances to policy and practice changes centered in accumulating long-term wealth, such as: including supporting BIPOC led entrepreneurship, facilitating access to capital, lowering and/or eliminating student loan debt, and increasing home ownership.
Included below are data points, many of which United Ways can access publicly, to track and demonstrate progress (or challenges) in creating equitable access. The list is not exhaustive but focused on a vital few data points that should be disaggregated by race, gender, income level, ability status, and geography (where available). Data on outcomes will be more readily available than data on access to networks, supports, resources and opportunities. Where data does not exist, United Ways can partner with higher education institutions, local advocacy organizations, data centers, and others to help fill these critical information gaps. Indicators labeled with an asterisk (*) are included in United Way’s common measurement framework, the Global Results Framework.
- Financial Stability and Economic Mobility Indicators
Access and Participation
- Number of individuals who access affordable financial products and services (bank accounts, mortgages, consumer and business loans, lines of credit)*
- Number of individuals with access to affordable housing (i.e. less than 37 percent of income devoted to housing costs)*
- Number of individuals with access to employment opportunities that provides a living wage
- Number of individuals participating in programs offering financial coaching/education, credit repair, savings plans
- Number of youth who matriculate to college (2, 4-yr., technical) after their senior year of high school
- Number of individuals who access job skills training*
- Number of individuals with access to affordable healthcare services and supports*
- Number of individuals with access to healthcare insurance*
- Number of individuals/families with access to affordable, quality childcare services
- Number of community/state-based coalitions or collaboratives focused on workforce development and/or job training
- Number of community/state-based early childhood coalitions or collaboratives focused on post-secondary access and completion
- Number of community-based job training and/or re-entry programs and services
- Percent of people who have a bank account (disaggregated by race, income level)
- Percent of individuals who own homes (by race, income level)
- Median property values (by race, geography)
- Percent of individuals who gain employment*
- Percent of individuals who gain employment that provides a living wage
- Percent of individuals who increase their wages*
- Percent of individuals who are unemployed (disaggregated by race, gender, education level)
- Percent of individuals who earn job-relevant licenses, certificates and/or credentials*
- Percent of individuals with four-year college degrees
- Percent of individuals living below 150 percent of the federal poverty line
- Percent of children living in poverty
- Percent of businesses owned (disaggregated by race)
- Percent of business receipts generated (disaggregated by race)
- Net worth (disaggregated by race, gender) ($ amount)
- Median household income (disaggregated by race, gender) ($ amount)
- Median wages (disaggregated by race, gender) ($ amount)
- Percent of individuals able with 3 months of emergency savings
Key Economic Mobility Sources
The national data sources listed below are places to gather economic mobility data, a good portion of which is disaggregated by race, income level, gender, and geographic location. This list is not exhaustive but provides a starting point for identifying economic mobility data that can be used to contextualize and deepen understanding of economic gaps and disparities in the community your United Way serves. In addition, some of the resources below focus specifically on gathering and analyzing data through an equity lens.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics – for data on employment, unemployment, wages, benefits, employment projections and characteristics of the U.S. workforce.
- U.S. Census Bureau – contains reports, aggregated data and searchable, customizable data on key economic indicators including median income, poverty, employment, labor force participation, and housing.
- Prosperity Now – provides data, strategies, and tools to advance policies and practices to advance economic mobility; contains resources focused on addressing the racial wealth gap.
- Policy Link – provides data, resources and tools to advance racial and economic equity; their Racial Equity Index includes nine indicators that cover economic vitality, readiness, and connectedness that communities can use to understand the relative degree of prosperity and well-being experienced by different racial and ethnic groups.
- FDIC – Conducts a biannual survey of American households use of banking and other financial services, good source of information on access to and disparities in mainstream financial products.
- Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis – contains resources including blog posts, webinars, and issue briefs on economic inequality and the correlation of demographic characteristics with wealth; also see the Fed’s Institute for Economic Equity.
- National Financial Capability Study – launched in 2009, and conducted every three years, the National Financial Capability Study benchmarks key indicators of financial capability and evaluates how these indicators vary based on demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics.