Finance, Banking & Business

The Finance, Banking & Business Subcommittee of the West Palm Beach Mayor’s Task Force on Racial & Ethnic Equality is in the process of identifying racial and ethnic disparities related to finance, banking and jobs/businesses/industry in West Palm Beach.

Committee members are identifying best practices, knowledge and research needed to eliminate the disparities before making recommendations for change.

We recognize that YOU have knowledge to share about finance, banking and industry in West Palm Beach. Members of this committee are listening!

Draft Priorities

At the December 5th Racial & Ethnic Equality Action Summit held by the Task Force, West Palm Beach residents shared two top priorities regarding Finance, Banking & Business. The subcommittee is currently discussing these priorities:

  1. Improve relationships between small business and banking and finance institutions and reduce existing barriers that impede business owners within marginalized communities
    • Assess impediments in both contracting and entrepreneurship
    • Develop strategies to address language barriers
  2. Support residents’ economic advancement by addressing gaps in opportunities to access capital and build wealth
    • Determine policies to provide more accessible and affordable banking for marginalized communities
    • Assess opportunities for financial institutions to support pathways to homeownership

The Finance, Banking & Business subcommittee meets monthly on the 2nd Wednesday of the month from 5:30 pm – 7 pm, via Zoom. Please see our Calendar page for specific details and Zoom links.

Sign up for updates about the subcommittee meetings (and Zoom links) and/or for our monthly Task Force email newsletter. Share comments about these priorities on our Facebook page.

We update this page regularly. Last updated 5/25/2021.

Did You Know?

In West Palm Beach (2017):

  • 42% of African American residents live below the poverty line.
  • 40% of black immigrants live below the poverty line.
  • 25% of Latino residents and immigrant Latinos live below below the poverty line.

In West Palm Beach, black and Latina women earn a median hourly wage of $13 per hour. White women earn a median wage of $27 per hour.

In West Palm Beach:

  • For every 100 white workers, 60 own a business.
  • For every 100 Latino workers, 44 own a business.
  • For every 100 African American workers, 28 own a business.

Florida ranks #2 in the country for income inequality!

Why Does Racial Equity Matter?

Today, a host of structural barriers — from continued discrimination in the labor market to predatory financial practices to stagnant and inequitable wages, and more — prevent people of color from getting ahead and contribute to racial inequities in employment, income, and wealth.

1. People of color are more likely to be working without a living wage.

Who is earning a living wage that allows them to meet their family’s basic needs? The amount of a living wage depends on family size and cost-of-living, but in West Palm Beach housing costs are increasing — and wages are not. When the economy is equitable, there are no systemic differences by race or gender, yet this is not the case in West Palm Beach (and across the U.S.).

In West Palm Beach, however:

  • just 44% of African Americans and 45% of Latinos earn $15/hour or above compared to 81% of White Americans.
  • The median hourly wage for White Americans is $28 per hour compared to $14 per hour for African Americans and Latinos.
  • Blacks born outside the U.S. earn a median hourly wage of only $12 per hour, and Latino immigrants earn a median hourly wage of only $13 per hour.

In West Palm Beach:

  • Black and Latina women earn a median hourly wage of $13 per hour. White women earn a median wage of $27 per hour.
  • Only 38% of Black women earn an hourly wage of $15/hour or more; 41% of Latinas earn $15/hour or more. In comparison, 83% of white women earn $15 an hour or more.

As for immigrants in West Palm Beach:

  • The median hourly wage for white immigrants is $30 an hour or more, compared to $12 for black immigrants and $13 an hour for Latino immigrants.
  • 81% of white immigrants earn an hourly wage of $15/hour or more, compared to 38% of black immigrants and 40% of Latino immigrants.

2. People of color are more likely to be concentrated in low-wage jobs.

Income inequality disproportionately impacts women and people of color, since these populations are concentrated in low-wage jobs. There are root causes to this inequality. Historical practices like racial segregation limited access to good-quality schools and job training programs. Racist policies banned women and people of color from accessing education, programs for gifted students, and higher-paid professions. Other ongoing factors include racial and gender bias in hiring practices, inadequate childcare support, the criminalization and imprisonment of black men, etc.

In terms of income growth, between 1980-2017, workers in West Palm Beach with earnings at the 10th percentile saw the least income growth at -11%. Compare that with the highest-paid workers: they saw their wages increase by 41%!

The lowest paid workers in West Palm Beach are earning an average of $12,425 a year, compared to an average of $201,000 for the highest paid workers.

3. Historical practices of housing discrimination have hindered African Americans from building wealth.

Today, the richest 10% of Americans control more than 76% of the country’s wealth.

In 2000, the median black household had an income that was 66% of the median white household income. In 2015 that figure was 59%. (U.S. Census)

During the Great Recession, black median household wealth in West Palm Beach almost halved from $19,200 in 2007 to $11,000 in 2013. The median wealth of white households is now 13 times greater than for black households—the largest gap in a quarter century.

The average white family has an estimated 13 to 10 times as much wealth as Black and Latinx families, respectively. 

What Do Experts Recommend To “Close the Gap”?

1. Help people buy and keep their homes.

  • Provide down-payment assistance programs for low- and moderate-income homebuyers.
  • Ensure access to affordable banking products, particularly those that can build credit history and credit scores.
  • Prevent foreclosures and help households and neighborhoods recover from them.
  • Enact a strong homeowner bill of rights to guarantee basic fairness and transparency for homeowners.

2. Eliminate barriers to entrepreneurship and support the growth of minority-owned businesses.

  • Increase access to resources to help underrepresented entrepreneurs build and repair credit and attract investment and loan capital to start and grow their businesses.
  • Increase resources for Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Centers, which help entrepreneurs of color gain access to capital, contracts, and markets.
  • Ensure entrepreneurs of color can access the know-how to launch and expand their businesses.
  • Leverage anchor institutions to support local and minority-owned businesses.

3. Support a living wage.

  • When workers have higher wages, they can improve their living standards and they bring greater stability to the workforce. A living wage means workers do not have to rely as much on a a safety-net of social services. They can also contribute to the tax base.
  • Despite popular perceptions, recent studies show that many businesses can manage minimum-wage increases and it benefits both workers and the economy. Workers with a living wage spend more as consumers, supporting business growth and job creation.

4. Remove barriers to employment.

  • Provide affordable high-quality preschool and childcare for low-income families.
  • Connect unemployed and underemployed workers to the jobs created by new development through targeted local hiring, community workforce agreements, and community benefits agreements.
  • Invest a portion of infrastructure investments in job training.
  • Reduce employment barriers for people with records by “banning the box” asking about conviction history on job applications (for private as well as public employers).
  • Target economic development and workforce efforts to grow high-opportunity sectors that provide pathways for people without four-year degrees and remove barriers to employment and services.
  • Grow new good and living-wage jobs by making smart investments in infrastructure projects and supporting economic development strategies to grow high-opportunity industries.
  • Pursue full employment through monetary policy, infrastructure investments, work-sharing, and other strategies, and economic policies that promote hiring, increased work hours, and living wages for low-wage workers.

5. Protect against predatory lending and financial scams.

Protect against predatory, high-cost financial service providers.

6. Take a comprehensive look at community wealth-building.

This report is from the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff in Jacksonville, Florida, and it offers detailed look at how a municipal government can plan and carry out a successful community wealth building roundtable. Members of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment (ICARE), a network of 38 local congregations, asked the city’s mayor in 2012 to organize a community wealth building roundtable, to explore how Jacksonville could build community wealth in disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly in historically underinvested Northwest Jacksonville. The Community Wealth Building (CWB) strategy seeks to develop the resources that already exist in a municipality to create locally-owned businesses that pay a living wage while giving workers a share of the profits they generate. The new businesses provide services and products to stable “anchor” institutions so that more of the anchor’s purchasing power is channeled inside the city.

Additional Resources

Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity (PolicyLink in partnership with FSG)
The business strategies mentioned in this report are aimed at complementing the push, from outside and inside corporations, for more fair and equitable operations. The report goes beyond the essential ingredient of workforce diversity as a means for business to address past and continuing discrimination while improving their competitiveness, to challenge the corporate sector to affirmatively advance racial equity through its products, services, and public policy positions.

A CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity: (article by PolicyLink, FSG, JUST Capital, and Living Cities)
This article invites corporations, racial equity experts, funders, investors, and other experts to support and collaborate with PolicyLink and its partners in developing guidelines that can guide businesses in analyzing their impact on racial equity. It presents an invitation and roadmap to help companies understand and address the intended and unintended consequences of all their products, policies, and practices on people of color, and by extension, our economy and democracy. The blueprint provides actions in three key domains: 1) inside the company, 2) within the communities where the companies are headquartered and conduct business, and 3) at the broader societal level.

Black Women Are More Likely to Start a Business Than Black Men (2021 research article from Harvard Business Review)
In the U.S., an astounding 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses. That’s compared to just 10% of white women, and 15% of white men. Yet despite this early lead, only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. To understand why this steep drop off occurs, and how to combat it, researchers analyzed data from interviews with more than 12,000 people, nearly 1,700 of whom identified as entrepreneurs and nearly 1,200 of whom own established businesses. Read more about the findings from this research in this article.

Community Wealth Building Summit- Opening Session
The Community Wealth Summit was a week of virtual learning and place-based organizing to rebuild local economies around shared ownership and racial justice that started on July 6, 2020. In the opening session, Ted Howard, the president of The Democracy Collaborative; Dayna Cunningham, executive director of the MIT Community Innovators Lab, and Michael McAfee, the CEO of PolicyLink, discuss the principles of community wealth building and the need for new approaches for addressing economic inequity, systemic racism and environmental sustainability as we rebuild the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Equity in Procurement (report – All in Cities/PolicyLink)
Equitable public spending is critical to the strength of cities, as businesses owned by people of color are more likely to hire people of color than other firms and generate increased economic activity in communities of color. Local governments often fail to provide fair contracting opportunities for MBEs and DBEs, who compete with larger companies that are politically connected, able to access financing, and more familiar with navigating the bureaucratic processes of working with governments.

Financial Services and the Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity: How Advancing Racial Equity Can Create Business Value
Highlights specific action steps leading companies in the financial sector have taken to create business value by using credit, savings, and investment products to address the unique challenges faced by communities of color. The companies featured in this report — Citi, Oportun, OneUnited Bank, Prudential Financial, and Impact America Fund — have found a competitive advantage through their strategies to serve consumers who have historically been excluded.

How Companies can Advance Racial Equity and Create Business Growth (PolicyLink)
Shares examples from our research on the healthcare and financial services sectors in addition to highlighting opportunities for companies in other sectors — 5 action-steps and 3 internal catalysts that are applicable to any industry.

National Minority Supplier Development Council
The National Minority Supplier Development Council advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members.

Palm Beach County Black Business Investment Corporation (PBCBBIC)
The PBCBBIC is a not-for-profit formed by the financial and business community in accordance with the Small and Minority Business Act of 1985. The PBCBBIC’s main objective is to ensure that Black owned and controlled businesses in Palm Beach County have the opportunity to obtain financing and other resources to compete in the marketplace and foster increased employment and social stability within the Black Community.

Owning Our Future After COVID-19: A Five-Point Plan for US National Economic Reconstruction and Community Transformation (Democracy Collaborative)
If past performance is a predictor of future outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic points to a grim future. As the initial crisis passes, we will reemerge into a shattered economic landscape, with the old inequalities of wealth, power, and control we faced beforehand newly amplified many times over. The challenge will be to rebuild this broken economy as one that is not only financially resilient but also sustainable, just, and reparative. This paper proposes a cohesive response to the crisis in the form of a five-point plan for national economic reconstruction and community transformation.

Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Data
Unfortunately, this data does not always include a breakdown based on race.

Policy Strategies to Build a More Inclusive Economy with Cooperatives (The Urban Institute)
In this report, we provide an overview of how policy can help cooperatives build healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities. We describe four broad policy goals: level the playing field, help grow the number of cooperatives in underserved markets, help grow the size and market share of existing cooperatives, and support cooperatives in reaching underserved people and communities. We also identify six specific ways policy can advance these goals, from enabling legislation to providing technical assistance. We conclude with steps that cooperatives can take to advance these policy goals.

The Racial Wealth Gap in Miami (study/report)
This detailed study focuses on Miami, but provides information useful to the study of the racial wealth gap in West Palm Beach.

Strategies for Financing the Inclusive Economy
This report from The Democracy Collaborative explores ways in which impact investors can help build an inclusive economy by accelerating the growth of broad-based ownership models — worker cooperatives, social enterprises, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), hybrid enterprises, and

When a California City Gave People a Guaranteed Income, They Worked More – Not Less
An article that highlights an experiment carried out in Stockton, California where 125 randomly selected participants living in neighborhoods at or below the city’s median household income line were given $500 a month for 24 months. The first round of results is in. 

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