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RPIC Policy Agenda – Improve Educational Attainment and Outcomes

While educational attainment has risen significantly in the last two decades, we continue to see a huge disparity in post-secondary education by race and ethnicity. White 25- to 29-year-olds are 55% more likely than Black counterparts to have completed a bachelor’s degrees or higher.[i] And Black high school students are 13 percent less likely to graduate than their white peers.[ii] One of the most robust predictors of a child’s academic success and earning power is whether they can read by third grade.[iii] In North Carolina two out of five children do not read at grade level at the end of third grade. There are clear racial disparities with 41% of Black third graders reading at grade level compared to 70% of white children.[iv]

According to education researchers, Barbara Bowman, James Comer, and David Johns (2018), “The interface between racism/classism and attendant economic and social disadvantages is the key to understanding the underachievement of African American children. African Americans have been exposed to generations of legal and illegal measures to deny them basic rights.”[v] Resource equity is an underlying issue: “school districts attended predominantly by students of color receive $23 billion less in funding than primarily white districts, despite serving the same number of students. And school districts that are poor and white receive about $150 less per student than the national average. In contrast, school districts that are poor and attended primarily by students of color receive $1,600 less.”[vi] In a recent study, Is School Funding Fair, researchers at the Education Law Center compared state funding of schools across all 50 states finding that most states provide disproportionately more economic resources to affluent schools than to those in high poverty areas.[vii]

Several other factors are related to the lack of progress in achieving parity in educational attainment and standardized scores. For poor urban youth, there is evidence that disengagement in school is a major cause of absenteeism and low graduation rates.[viii] Also, there is data to support the claim that “a growing disparity in teacher quality across the social divide may have offset the impacts of policies designed to work in the opposite direction.”[ix] Finally, confounding the issue is the fact that parental education strongest predictor of student achievement.[x]

It has been argued that high quality universal pre-K could “significantly reduce the financial burden facing families with young children and help ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten.”[xi] Early education and school readiness have been proven to be effective in helping to close the achievement gap by preparing children for educational success.[xii] It also helps with reducing poverty in households with children by reducing the cost-burden of families due to childcare expenses. Childcare in North Carolina is prohibitively expensive, according to the Care Index[xiii] in-home care in NC averages $27,251/yr and in-center care averages $8,643/yr. As a result of COVID19 closures of childcare facilities and schools, we see even further disparities in achievement on standardized testing scores and greater need for intervention around this topic.

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 4 Improve Educational Attainment and Outcomes

Solution #1: Support universal high-quality childcare and pre-K programs

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expand funding to Head Start and Early Head Start Programs.
  2. Expanding the availability of childcare subsidy assistance.
  3. Reestablish Advance Child Tax Credit Payments to LMI families.

Solution #2: Increase school quality in LMI communities

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Changing state school funding formulas to increase funding to underserved communities.
  2. Support, train, and pay teachers like other professionals.
  3. Fund school infrastructure in LMI communities.
  4. Expand teacher training and education loan forgiveness programs.
  5. Providing funding and scholarships for teaching degree programs that have a proven track record of attracting and graduating minority teachers.

Solution #3: Expand degree attainment, credentialing, and training opportunities minority students

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Combat school absenteeism and disengagement.
  2. Promote project- and problem-based learning opportunities.
  3. Expand support for paid externships and ‘on-the-job’ training programs linked to industry.
  4. Provide debt-free higher education and community college programs.
  5. Support student loan debt forgiveness for LMI populations.
  6. Reinstate NC income tax deductions for contributions to NC 529 accounts.

[i] Hanson, Melanie. (2021). “Education Attainment Statistics”

[ii] Stemm-Calderon, Zoë. (2019) Why Education Reform Must Prioritize Resource Equity Raikes Foundation.

[iii] Fiester, Leila. (2010). Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. Annie E. Casey Foundation.

[iv] NC Child 2021 County Data Cards.

[v] Bowman, B. T., Comer, J. P., & Johns, D. J. (2018). “Addressing the African American Achievement Gap: Three Leading Educators Issue a Call to Action.” Young Children. 73(2), 14–23.

[vi] Stemm-Calderon, Zoë. (2019)

[vii] Baker, B., Farrie, D., Sciarra, D. (2018). Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card Education Law Center

[viii] Mac Iver, D. (2019). Five Successful Reforms to Combat Students’ Absenteeism and Disengagement. John Hopkins School of Education.

[ix] Hanushek, E.A., Peterson, P.E., Talpey, L.M., and Woessmann, L. (2019). “The Achievement Gap Fails to Close: Half century of testing shows persistent divide between haves and have-nots.” Education Next. 19(3), 8-17.

[x] Hanushek, E.A., Peterson, P.E., Talpey, L.M., and Woessmann, L. (2019).

[xi] Lieberman, A. (2022). “Policy Recommendations: Universal Pre-K.” New America.

[xii] First Five Years Fund. (2022). “Why It Matters: School Readiness.”

[xiii] See

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RPIC Policy Agenda – Reduce Disparities in Health due to Social Drivers of Health

The effects of systemic racism are visible throughout the health care system and in the disproportionately negative health outcomes among communities of color. Black Americans remain the least healthy group.[i] Black patients fare significantly worse than whites in the categories including infant mortality and neonatal health; [ii] HIV/AIDS; cardiovascular disease; cancer screening and management; adult and child immunizations; diabetes; asthma; end-stage renal disease;[iii] nutritional risk; breast cancer; as well as anxiety, depression, and substance misuse.[iv]

There are a variety of factors, or social determinants, that play a role in driving these inequalities in health. Conditions of the social environment are shaped by how the political and economic systems distribute resources, and these conditions contribute as much or more to health outcomes as one’s DNA. Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. [v]

Access to care is critical. Across the US we find that 11.4% of African Americans and 20.0% of Hispanics lack any form of health insurance. In North Carolina, those numbers are even worse with 13.6% of African Americans and 32.0% of Hispanics uninsured. Health care access and insurance coverage were major factors that contributed to racial and ethnic disparities before the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Though disparities in access to insurance have been reduced significantly as a result of ACA implementation[vi] research continues to show that health care access especially among minority communities lags and health insurance discrimination occurs.[vii] Recent surveys have shown a strong perception of discrimination in health care among African American respondents.[viii] Studies have clearly demonstrated inferior care received by Black patients in doctors’ offices; disparities in cardiac care, where Black patients are less likely than white patients to be prescribed certain cardiac medications;[ix] less access to curative surgery for early-stage lung, colon, or breast cancer; and higher rates of syphilis in counties which exclude Black professionals from boards of health and county commissions.[x]

Where communities of color are located plays an important role in health disparity. Many studies have shown that communities of color are more likely to experience place-based environmental health hazards such as poor air quality, [xi]hazardous waste[xii] and pre-regulatory landfills,[xiii] pesticide use and toxic chemical releases, [xiv] and often lack safe recreational areas.[xv] They are also more likely to live in areas that are considered food deserts,[xvi] medical deserts,[xvii] pharmacy deserts, [xviii]and in communities with persistent poverty and high rates of social vulnerability.[xix] Researchers have offered overwhelming evidence that Black people receive a lower quality of health care than whites, have less access to care, and have worse health outcomes –even when controlling for income and other factors unrelated to race. This racial dimension of health equity is manifested across all health categories.[xx]

Solution #1: Increase healthcare access among LMI communities

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expand Medicaid in Non-Expansion States like NC.
  2. Promote local health system and provider networks.[i]
  3. Provide insurance to working poor who fall into the coverage gap.
  4. Expanded funding for Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).
  5. Develop community health worker, health navigator, and home visitation programs.

Solution #2: Address Social and Economic Factors contributing to poor health outcomes

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Provide or expand family and social support systems of care.
  2. Address community safety as public health issue.
  3. Expand resources to maternal and child health programs.
  4. Promote Livable wage advocacy and raising minimum wages.
  5. Expand availability of healthcare and healthy foods in HRSA identified Medically Underserved Areas and USDA designated Low Income/Low Food Access neighborhoods.

Solution #3: Improve physical environments in which people live

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Treat air quality and pollution as environmental justice issues.
  2. Develop more stringent mitigation strategies to reduce emissions and toxic exposures in LMI areas.
  3. Better assess drinking water quality, especially in pre 1980s homes and in neighborhoods with aging infrastructure.
  4. Involve local residents in LMI neighborhoods in development of remediation plans for Pre-Regulatory Landfills (PRLFs) and other environmental hazards.
  5. Provide more transportation choice and transit access in LMI communities.
  6. Expand HUD lead-safe housing and healthy homes programs.

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 3 Reducing Disparities in Health due to Social Drivers

[i] See

[i] Noonan, A.S., Velasco-Mondragon, H.E. & Wagner, F.A. Improving the health of African Americans in the USA: an overdue opportunity for social justice. Public Health Rev 37, 12 (2016).

[ii] Testa, Alexander and Dylan B. Jackson. 2021. “Race, ethnicity, WIC participation, and infant health disparities in the United States.” Annals of Epidemiology.  58: 22-28.

[iii] Bediako, Shawn M. and Derek M. Griffith. 2007. “Eliminating Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities: Reconsidering Comparative Approaches.” Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice. 2(1): 49-62.

[iv] Williams, David R. and Selina A. Mohammed. 2009. “Discrimination and racial disparities in health: evidence and needed research.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 32:20-47.

[v] Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2022. “Social Determinants of Health.”

[vi] Chen, J., Vargas-Bustamante, A., Mortensen, K., & Ortega, A. N. (2016). “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Access and Utilization Under the Affordable Care Act.” Medical care. 54(2), 140–146.

[vii] Xinxin Han, Kathleen Thiede Call, Jessie Kemmick Pintor, Giovann Alarcon-Espinoza, Alisha Baines Simon. (2015). “Reports of Insurance-Based Discrimination in Health Care and Its Association With Access to Care”, American Journal of Public Health 105, S3:S517-S525.

[viii] Sills, S., Rich, B., DiMattina, M., Su, H., Gruber, K., (2021). “Dan River Health Collaborative Health Equity Report 2021.” Report Submitted to the Danville Regional Foundation.

[ix] Thomas, Stephen B. and Erica Casper. (2019). “The Burdens of Race and History on Black People’s Health 400 Years After Jamestown.” American Journal of Public Health. 109(10): 1346-1347.

[x] Thomas, Stephen B. (2001). “The Color Line: Race Matters in the Elimination of Health Disparities.” American Journal of Public Health. 91(7): 1046-1048.

[xi] Morello-Frosch R, Jesdale BM. (2006). “Separate and unequal: residential segregation and estimated cancer risks associated with ambient air toxics in US metropolitan areas.” Environ Health Perspect.;114(3):386–393.

[xii] Mohai P, Saha R. (2007). “Racial inequality in the distribution of hazardous waste: a national-level reassessment.” Social Problems. 54(3):343–370.

[xiii] Sills, S. & DiMattina, M. (2021). “Geospatial and Statistical Analysis of Statewide Landfills in NC.” unpublished white paper and presentation as part of the Bingham Park Environmental Justice Research Project.

[xiv] Lara Cushing, John Faust, Laura Meehan August, Rose Cendak, Walker Wieland, George Alexeeff, (2015). “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cumulative Environmental Health Impacts in California: Evidence From a Statewide Environmental Justice Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen 1.1)”, American Journal of Public Health 105, 11:2341-2348.

[xv] Moore LV, Diez Roux AV, Evenson KR, McGinn AP, Brines SJ. (2008). “Availability of recreational resources in minority and low socioeconomic status areas.” Am J Prev Med.;34(1):16–22

[xvi] Weinberg, Z (2000) “No place to shop: Food access lacking in the inner city.” Race, Poverty & The Environment 7(2): 22–24

[xvii] Carr, Brendan, Bowman, Ariel, Wolff, Catherine, Mullen, Michael T, Holena, Daniel, Branas, Charles C., Wiebe, Douglas 2017. “Disparities in Access to Trauma Care in the United States: A Population–Based Analysis.” Injury 48(2):332–8.

[xviii] Wisseh, C., Hildreth, K., Marshall, J. et al. (2021). “Social Determinants of Pharmacy Deserts in Los Angeles County.” J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 8, 1424–1434

[xix] Ibraheem M. Karaye, and Jennifer A. Horney. 2020. “The Impact of Social Vulnerability on COVID-19 in the U.S.: An Analysis of Spatially Varying Relationships.”American Journal of Preventive Medicine 59: 317-325

[xx] Smedley, Brian D., Adrienne Y. Stith, and Alan R. Nelson, eds. 2003. Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. Washington: The National Academies Press

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RPIC Policy Agenda – Increase Affordable, Fair, & Healthy Housing Options

The relationship between income, housing, and wealth accumulation is interconnected. As Choi et al.  (2019) note, “there is a well-documented persistence of income inequality by race, a key factor contributing to the homeownership gap. Household income is a key input for mortgage underwriting determinations, and income is used in various calculations required for mortgage approval, such as the debt-to-income ratio.” [i] While the median income differences between white and Black households plays a major role in explaining the current differences in homeownership,[ii] research finds that “even among Black and white households in the same income cohort, there is a noticeable homeownership gap.”[iii] Evidence therefore points to the intergenerational impact of homeownership, and not income alone, as the accumulated inheritances and parental support that accompany home ownership, are “crucial in helping low-income households attain homeownership.”[iv]

Rather than narrowing, the gap in homeownership rates by race has grown steadily over the last century. In 1900, the gap between white and Black homeownership was 27.6%,[v] that gap has not improved in the last 121 years with U.S. Census Bureau data from April 2021 showing a 29.6% difference between white and Black homeowners. [vi],[vii] The difference in median wealth has been attributable almost entirely to homeownership and the passing of resources through inheritance. Shapiro (2006) explains that homeownership acts as a vehicle for savings and for growing capital over the life course: “Homeownership and housing appreciation are the foundation of institutional accumulation. Indeed, for most Americans, home equity represents the largest reservoir of wealth: home wealth accounts for 60% of the total wealth among America’s middle class.”[viii]

Black homeownership peaked in 2004 at 49.7%, but fell as a result of the foreclosure crisis in which “black families were hit particularly hard, housing data show, forcing many out of their homes and pushing black homeownership rates to record lows.”[ix]  In all, over 240,000 Black families or eight percent of Black homeowners lost their homes in the 2005-2008 period.[x]  The impact of the housing recession of was largely the result of predatory lending which, while increasing the number of minority homeowners, did so at higher interest and with worse lending terms for borrowers. Dey and Brown (2020) note, “at the center of the Great Recession was a subprime mortgage crisis that disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic homeowners. New mortgage originations declined whereas foreclosures and other reversals in homeownership increased, wiping out gains in minority homeownership rates.”[xi] Following the recession, Black households did not see the rebound in homeownership that white households experienced.[xii] In fact, between January of 2000 and January of 2019, Black homeownership fell 6.3% overall.[xiii] More importantly, “half of the wealth owned by Black households in the United States was destroyed.”[xiv]

Solution #1: Increase minority homeownership

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expanded down payment assistance programs in minority communities.
  2. Address bias and disparities in appraisals.
  3. Expanded emergency mortgage assistance/foreclosure prevention programs to ensure that a low income household doesn’t lose their home.
  4. “Ban the box” on NC Standard Offer to Purchase that asks if the borrower is receiving down payment assistance.

Solution #2: Provide more affordable housing options for those making less than 80% AMI

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Expand the number and amount for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).
  2. By-right zoning of multifamily, including small-to-medium-sized multifamily like duplexes, quadplexes, and ADUs.
  3. Provide seed funding for Community Land Trusts in major urban markets.
  4. Promote permanent supportive housing for those under 30% AMI.

Solution #3: Promote Affordable Housing Development in High Opportunity Areas

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Increase incentives to landlords to accept HUD Housing Choice Vouchers.
  2. Enact statutes allowing mandatory  Inclusionary Zoning, not just in conditional programs.
  3. Expand Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and require Fair Housing Equity Assessments.
  4. Promote the use of publicly owned property for affordable housing or mixed-use development.

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 2 Increase Housing Options

[i] Choi J., McCargo A., Neal M., Goodman L., Young C. (2019). “Explaining the Black-White Homeownership Gap: A Closer Look at Disparities across Local Markets.” Urban Institute.

[ii] Choi, Jung Hyun. (2020). “Breaking Down the Black-White Homeownership Gap.” Urban Wire: Housing and Housing Finance.

[iii] Choi et al. ,2019

[iv] Choi, 2020.

[v] Olsen, Skylar. (2018). “Black and White Homeownership Rate Gap Has Widened Since 1900.” Zillow.

[vi] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Non-Hispanic White Alone in the United States [NHWAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;

[vii] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Black Alone in the United States [BOAAAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;

[viii] Shapiro, Thomas. (2006). “Race, Homeownership and Wealth.” Journal of Law and Policy 20:53-74.

[ix] McMullen, Troy. (2019).” The ‘heartbreaking’ decrease in black homeownership: Racism and rollbacks in government policies are taking their toll.” Washington Post.

[x] Gruenstein Bocian, Debbie, Li, Wei & Ernst, Keith. (2010). “Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: The Demographics of a Crisis.” Center for Responsible Lending.

[xi] Dey , Jaya & Brown, Lariece. (2020). “The Role of Credit Attributes in Explaining the Homeownership Gap Between Whites and Minorities Since the Financial Crisis, 2012–2018.” Housing Policy Debate. DOI: 10.1080/10511482.2020.1818599

[xii] Choi et al. 2019.

[xiii] U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). “Homeownership Rates by Race and Ethnicity: Black Alone in the United States [BOAAAHORUSQ156N].” retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis;

[xiv] Markley, Scott, Hafley, Taylor, Allums, Coleman, Holloway, Steven, & Chung, Hee Cheol. (2020). “The Limits of Homeownership: Racial Capitalism, Black Wealth, and the Appreciation Gap in Atlanta.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12873

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RPIC Policy Agenda – Advancing Economic Opportunities for Minority Communities

According to the Federal Reserve, in 2020 white families in the US had a median wealth of $188,200, compared to $24,100 for Black families.[i] Family wealth is an important tool for providing an economic safety net and for assisting the next generation in getting started. [ii] Wealth accumulation was systematically denied, and, in many cases, capital was even taken from Black communities and commuted to white institutions, resulting in the huge disparity seen today[iii]. The legacy of exclusionary practices in the twentieth century is the 800% difference in the median wealth of white versus Black families. Shapiro (2006) exclaims that “closing the racial wealth gap must be at the forefront of the civil rights agenda in the twenty-first century.”[iv]

The wage gap between white and Black workers is an important contributor to disparities in access to homeownership as well as just good quality housing, medical care, food access, and educational opportunities.[v] This wage differential narrowed between 1880, when “Blacks in the United States earned only about 34 percent of the income of whites,”[vi] to 51% by the 1950s.[vii] The gap narrowed further with improving labor rights for workers in the 1960s:“The black-white wage gap shrunk substantially from 1950 to 1980, and especially during the 1960s. Civil-rights laws and a decline in legally sanctioned racism most likely played some role. But the main reasons, Mr. Charles said, appear to have been trends that benefited all blue-collar workers, like strong unions and a rising minimum wage. Because black workers were disproportionately in blue-collar jobs, the general rise of incomes for the poor and middle class shrank the racial wage gap.”[viii]

Little has changed in the last 40 years. There remains a 38.8% gap in earnings today. According to the U.S. Census, the median income in 2020 was $45,870 for black households and $74,912 U.S. dollars for white, non-Hispanic families.[ix],[x] Across the South, these wage differentials are even more pronounced. For example, in Montgomery, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, and Memphis, Black households earn half the median income of white households. In some Southern cities the differential is even greater. For instance, in Atlanta, Georgia the Black median household income is $31,900 compared to the non-Hispanic white income of $96,065.[xi] As noted in national and state-level analysis by PayScale, Inc, “equal pay for equal work is not a reality for many people of color. When controlling for education, years of experience, occupation and other compensable factors, most men and women of color still earn less than white men…. these differences in annual earnings can amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars less for people of color over the course of their careers.”[xii]

Solution #1: Ensure equal pay protection for minorities & women

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Reinstate the federal government’s collection of pay data from employers
  2. Ban the solicitation of applicant salary data in NC County and Municipal Governments
  3. Strengthen equal pay protections via federal Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act

Solution #2: Increase access to credit & capital

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Provide universal free basic checking accounts for unbanked individuals
  2. Addressing student loan debt and lower credit scores in minority communities
  3. Promote microlending (under $50k) for minority and women owned startups
  4. Expand resources for the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund
  5. Promote “Baby Bonds” through the American Opportunity Accounts
  6. Hold commercial lenders accountable for making loans available to minorities and women at the same rates as others.

Solution #3: Stimulate growth entrepreneurship among minority owned businesses.

Reform(s) Needed:

  1. Increase the share of federal, state, and local contracts allocated to small, minority-owned businesses
  2. Provide wider training and technical assistance to HUB businesses to help them access HUB-related benefits
  3. Provide funding to technical assistance providers with experience supporting minorities and women (like NIMED).
  4. Promote minority business incubator and technical assistance programs by expanding Small Business Administration funding

Download the printable Research, Policy, and Impact Agenda Part 1 Advancing Economic Opportunities

[i] Bhutta, Neil, Andrew C. Chang, Lisa J. Dettling, and Joanne W. Hsu (2020). “Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances,” FEDS Notes. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, DOI: 10.17016/2380-7172.2797.

[ii] Kriston McIntosh, Emily Moss, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh. (2020). Examining the Black-white wealth gap. Up Front. The Brookings Institution.

[iii] Baradaran, Mehrsa. (2017). The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap. Cambridge, Mass. Belknap Press, Harvard University Press.

[iv] Shapiro, Thomas. (2006). “Race, Homeownership and Wealth.” Journal of Law and Policy 20:53-74.

[v] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Community-Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States; Baciu A, Negussie Y, Geller A, et al. , editors. (2017). Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 11. 3, “The Root Causes of Health Inequity.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

[vi] Ng, K., & Virts, N. (1993). “The Black-White Income Gap in 1880.” Agricultural History, 67(1), 1–15.

[vii] Leonhardt, David. (2020). “The Black-White Wage Gap Is as Big as It Was in 1950: Recent research indicates little progress since the Truman administration.” The New York Times.

[viii] Leonhardt, 2020.

[ix] Statista Research Department. (2021). “Median income of white, non-Hispanic private households in the United States from 1990 to 2020.” Statista.

[x] Statista Research Department. (2021). “Median income of black private households in the United States from 1990 to 2020.” Statista.

[xi] SimplyAnalytics (2021). “U.S. Census American Community Survey 2020 Current Estimates Data from SimplyAnalytics database.”

[xii] PayScale. (2021). “The Racial Wage Gap Persists in 2020.”

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How were minority and women owned small businesses assisted by the National Institute of Minority Economic Development during the pandemic?

The North Carolina Small Business Impact Grant Program, RETOOLNC, is an initiative created by Governor Roy Cooper which addresses measures and supports efforts to aid communities of color disproportionately impacted by the pandemic through targeted lending programs such as Institute Capital.

In a poll conducted by the Research, Policy, & Impact Center, RETOOLNC grant recipients were asked how they used funds they received during the pandemic. A total of 565 emails were sent to 2020/2021 RETOOLNC recipients, 143 surveys were completed for a final response rate of 25.9% (omitting incorrect email addresses). The majority of respondents to this survey represented small businesses with only 1-5 employees (67.6%) or sole proprietor businesses (14.1%). Most (81.4%) were minority owned and half (53.1%) were woman-owned.

Three-fifths (60.6%) of RetoolNC grant recipients who responded to our survey indicated that they used the funds to pay salaries and retain existing employees during the pandemic. 80.7% indicated that they used funds to grow their business. This included: adding employees (23.6%), buying new equipment (39.3%), improving web presence (35.0%), and ‘other’ upgrades (7.9%). Another fifth (20.4%) of respondents said that funds were used for training purposes to pivot business services. Finally, just 2.1% said they used the funding to provide incentives to employees. Other uses included:

  • Used funds to hire office 365 Cybersecurity professional.
  • Print marketing, online marketing targeted towards brides, an email marketing course, social media ads and boosted social posts
  • Invested in promotion of my company to attract new business for the business lost during the pandemic through promotional products, mailings, other contacts and introductions and rewards. Also used these methods to try and retain the current client base.
  • I used to repair trucks
  • I used funds to maintain operations during the pandemic to provide working capital and pay recurring expenses like rent, utilities and telephone.
  • I used funds to enroll in new courses and classes as well as pay down some debt.
  • I invested in training and education to expand our business.
  • I franchised my company.
  • Contractors were added to help further business growth and systems were put in place to attain process efficiency.

The infographic below summarizes some of the other results of this survey:

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Poll Shows Rate Increase Adds Additional Financial Burden on Women and Minority Owned Small Business

Last Wednesday (5/3/22), the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a half percentage point, the largest rate increase since 2000. The Fed previously raised its rate a quarter percentage point in March. The Fed rate increases are meant to lower inflation while not slow down the economy so much that it tips into recession.

However, rising interest rates mean the cost of capital goes up. Increased interest rates mean higher payments for credit cardholders and new mortgages. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 5.55%, the highest it has been in more than a decade.

Small businesses will be impacted by the higher cost of capital. Short-term rates in particular will jump higher. Interest rates for business lines of credit and other variable-rate loans will increase making payments more expensive. This increased cost may cause businesses to halt recovery and growth.

Women-owned or Minority-owned Business Enterprises (WMBE) were polled by the Research, Policy, and Impact Center at the National Institute of Minority Economic Development about the potential impact of this rate increase.

Respondents indicated that there would be a ‘cooling off’ of business activities as a result of the increased cost of capital. More than half (58.1%) said they would delay planned business expansion and 54.8% said they would put off purchasing new equipment.

One small business owner said, “This rate increase will negatively affect our business throughout our production/supply chain ladder. As we are already battling supply shortages and paying higher prices for materials, this rate increase will only add to the struggle.

Two-fifths (41.9%) of respondents would cut other business services causing ripples in the Business-to-Business (B2B) marketplace.

An WMBE explained, “As a small business, our line of credit is tied to the prime lending rate. The results of the increase will add to our operating costs which have already increased substantially due to inflation, the labor shortage therefore affecting our bottom line. There has been a heavy pattern of slow pay from general contractors to small business contractors over the last few years which will result in many small business subcontractors going out of business.”

This rate hike comes just as many WMBEs were beginning to recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic. During the pandemic, Governor Cooper established the Small Business Impact Grant Program (RETOOLNC) program to help certified Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) recover from unexpected adjustments to their business. Grants of up to $25,000 were awarded to certified small, underutilized businesses to help them with pivotal industry business changes needed during the pandemic.

One RETOOLNC recipient explains, “A rate increase will definitely be disastrous for minority and women owned small businesses. Especially when we are just beginning to see our business come back to normalcy.  We did not have enough income last year to feed our families. It was thanks to loans and grants that we received that we could survive.”

Small businesses have been feeling the uptick in inflation. According to the Federal Reserve, inflation reached 6.6% last month, the highest point in four decades.

WMBEs, already struggling to remain profitable as fuel prices, supplies, and services costs increase, feel the coming rate hike will cause further uncertainty: “The surge in cost has affected me with travel due to rising fuel cost necessary to reach my customer, then the rise in cost for meals while on the road and meals necessary for PR with customers. Pricing jobs are very concerning because as a reseller, I cannot control rising cost for raw materials and shipping; these cost are controlled by my large business suppliers.  A job that may take six months to a year to complete, will now most likely consist of an unforeseen price increase in materials.  When this happens, it is usually a loss from the profit for the small business.”

The rate hike will also impact employees of WMBEs. More than a third (38.7%) of respondents to our poll indicated that they will be forced to reduce employee hours and 35.5% said they would not add new employees that were planned. Others said that they may have to postpone staff training (12.9%) and a few may even lay-off or furlough workers (9.7%).

Customers and clients of small businesses will also be impacted as they pass on the higher costs. Says one WMBE, “Any increases will have to be passed on to my customers and I’m not quite sure how receptive they will be to that news. It just makes everything increase. Costs of equipment, payroll increases, and we are still in the middle of supply chain issues that have a lot of my business in a holding pattern for equipment to complete jobs. So, profitability does not exist right now. The worst part of it all is I can’t predict when this will turn around.”

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PPP Lending Disparities by Race in 2020 and 2021

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was widely criticized, for favoring white-owned businesses over Minority Business Enterprises. (MBE) In the study PPP loans were consolidated using the program Stata using data only for North Carolina and included data sets for loans under and over $150K. In the first round of loans the racial demographics matched the business demographics of the Census for North Carolina, except that Asians were overrepresented and Whites were slightly underrepresented. However, there were extreme disparities in the amounts given to white owned business and some of the MBEs even after considerable controls where introduced. Along with race the study also controlled for the number of jobs a business had, whether they were female-owned, or if they were in a rural area, a non-profit or a specially designated HUBZone set by the SBA (Small Business Administration). The model also tested whether the business owner was Hispanic, as there is some evidence to show that Hispanics were discriminated against in the PPP loan process. However, our model shows that in North Carolina any differences are not statistically significant.

However, the model from Table 1 shows that in 2020 despite having the same number of employees, living in same area, being the same gender, and not living in a designated HUBZone a white owned business would have received an average of $15,000 more than a black-owned business and almost $21,000 more than an Asian-owned business, which are statistically significant at the less than 1% level. The chart and table from 2021 show considerable improvement over loan amount disparities. In the 2021 data white-owned businesses are underrepresented and the other races are overrepresented, which compensates for the disparities in the previous year. According to Table 2, Black-Owned businesses do not receive an average loan that is statistically significantly lower than white-owned businesses and Asian owned business received an average of $7,389 less than white owned business that is still an improvement over the near average $21,000 lower amount they received last year even when taking into consideration loan amounts were about half of what they were last year in N.C. Still much needs to be done to address. racial disparities on all fronts.

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PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) Disparities by Gender in North Carolina by Year

In order to determine whether Paycheck Protection loans in the North Carolina, suffered the same disparities between gender and race, as we found in our previous articles for 2020 PPP data. PPP loans were aggregated to include only North Carolina and included loan over and under 150K. In months that PPP were available in 2020, the disparities were much greater for loans given to male-owned businesses and women-owned businesses and were equivalent to amount of loans given between male and female owned business, however male owned businesses were awarded significantly higher loan amounts than female owned businesses. The demographic count almost doubled for gender between the two years, with the loans given in 2020 had close to 39% of loan applicants responding to the gender question, while 2021 had around to 78% responded as female owned businesses rate. Surprisingly, there were very few disparities between the loans given out in 2020 between male and female owned businesses and female businesses were overrepresented in the 2021 when compared to the overall business demographics of the North Carolina.

According to the most recent Census data that includes both Employer and Employer data statistics. The 2017 Census showed that female owned businesses made up 38.94% and male owned businesses made up 54.70% of Employer and Non-Employer businesses (percents do not add up to 100% because the Census includes equally/male and female owned as a separate category).

Male-owned businesses still received significantly more loans than female owned businesses. According to Model 1 in Table 1 below, male-owned businesses received and average of $6,759.96 more than female owned businesses, which is statistically significant at the five percent level. The model accounts for numerous factors that would affect loan amounts. The first and most important is jobs, the more jobs a business employee the more they will need to protect their employees’ paychecks and borrow more money. As the model shows for each employee a business reports they receive on average of $6,940.99, which is significant at less than the one percent level. Controls for race where also added which have been shown in many studies have shown that race has been shown to affect loan amount. Non-Profits, businesses in rural areas, and areas specifically designated as Historically Underutilized Zone (HUBZone). These controls were added to show that even when we disregarded the number of jobs a business employs, the race of the business owner, whether they are in an urban or rural area, or whether they are in a designated HUBZone female owned businesses still receive significantly less loan amounts than male-owned businesses.

Moreover, while the charts and the tables may show significant improvement in the amount of loans given when we did deeper the picture tells a different story. According to Model 1, in 2020 data male-owned businesses are given and average of $6756.96 more than female-owned businesses, while in the 2021 data male-owned businesses are given an average of $3301.50 more than female-owned businesses. So, male-owned businesses received around 2.05 times more than female-owned businesses when adjusting for controls. However, when looking at the mean amounts of total loans given, we see that in 2020 the average loan was $95,770 and in 2021 the average loan given was $40,266. Therefore, the average loans that were given in 2021 were 42% less than the average loan given in 2021. This means that the disparities between PPP loans given to male owned businesses and female owned businesses were about the same between the two years and may have been worse in 2021.


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Griffin & Strong Find Significant Disparities in N.C. Procurement: Non-Partisan Small Business Reserve Program is one of the Best Remedies for N.C.

The NC Department of Administration’s Historically Underutilized Business Office recently released a disparity study, researched by Griffin & Strong P.C., on the availability and utilization of minority and women business enterprises (MWBE) in government contracting. Researchers used procurement data from FY2014-2015 to look for and examine evidence of discrimination in North Carolina’s procurement practices. 

Griffin & Strong released their data in two reports: one focused on the procurement practices of North Carolina State Agencies, and the other reports on the contracts doled out by North Carolina’s Universities and Community Colleges, in the Industry Categories of Construction, Architecture and Engineering (“A&E”), Professional Services, Other Services, and Goods. The reports show that in nearly all categories1, North Carolina State Agencies, Universities and Community Colleges significantly underutilized minority and women owned businesses in contracts given to firms in all five industry – categories.

In order to reveal disparities researchers at Griffin & Strong P.C., determined the percentage of W/MBE firms in each industry category that are willing and able to do business with North Carolina and compares that with the amount of contract money awarded to firms by North Carolina State Agencies, Universities, and Community Colleges. The reports revealed that disparities were greater in contracts provided by state agencies than the disparities from University and Community College contracts. According to the study, 21.02% of construction firms able to do business with North Carolina are MBEs and 12.55% are WBE, yet MBE Construction firms received only 1.84% of total dollars spent on State Agency Construction projects and WBE received 5.39% of the funds from State Agency Construction contracts. The report on Universities and Community colleges showed that MBEs received 2.86% of construction contracts and WBEs received 9.65% of the construction contract funding.

The disparities for contracts given to MBEs is far greater than the disparities for WBEs in both reports for nearly all categories. Griffin & Strong created a disparity index to show the level of under and overutilization of certain firms in various categories. Scores below 100 represent underutilization, scores over 100 represent overutilization and a score of 100 represents perfect utilization.

Table 1 - Business Ownership Classification by Fiscal Year North Carolina Disparity Study
Table 2 - Business Ownership Classification by Fiscal Year NC-CC/Univ Colleges and Universities Disparity Study

As the graphs above show, MBEs are underutilized at rates far greater than WBEs in all the Industry categories except for goods in the Universities and Community Colleges study. In order to address this, the State should decouple the procurement goals of MBEs and WBEs. North Carolina could look to Ohio which has separated their MBE program from their WBE program and is in the process of creating a hybrid program called the Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity (EDGE) Program. Ohio’s MBE program establishes 15% procurement goals for state contracts to be awarded to certified MBEs, along with Financial and Bonding Assistance and Management and Technical Assistance, while it’s WBE program does not allow set aside procurement goals.

In order to address the disparities in North Carolina procurement rates, Griffin & Strong made 12 Policy recommendations North Carolina can make to increase WMBE utilization. In accordance with the legal requirements for MWBE programs set forth in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469 (1989), many of the policy recommendations are race neutral. Two of the recommendations are particularly timely in that they will help address North Carolina’s procurement disparities and help bolster small businesses ravaged by the pandemic. The recommendations are:

  • Create a Small Business Reserve Program that allows only small businesses to bid on certain sized contracts.
  • Implement Mandatory Subcontracting goals on large contracts to create more opportunities

These policy recommendations could help revitalize North Carolina’s small businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic. As the below graphics show, both the number of small businesses open in North Carolina and the revenue that small business has generated is significantly lower than it was in January 2020 before the start of the pandemic. Creating a statewide a small business reserve program, modeled after Maryland’s small business reserve program could keep struggling small businesses from having to shutter their doors. The program would allow firms in the state to register as small businesses, and then compete for set aside projects that can only be awarded certified small businesses.

Figure 1 - Percent Change in Number of Small Businesses Open: In North Carolina, as of May 05 2021, the number of small businesses open decreased by 27.3% compared to January 2020
Figure 2 - Percent Change in Small Business Revenue: In North Carolina, as of May 05 2021, total small business revenue decreased by 18.3% compared to January 2020.

All small businesses, regardless of their ownership status have been hit hard by the pandemic. Creating a small business reserve program would help create more job opportunities for small businesses hurt by the pandemic. Moreover, since WMBEs tend to be disproportionally smaller with less access to the capital necessary to bid for large contracts, creating a small business reserve program with set-aside procurement goals and creating contracting jobs that require less access to capital would disproportionally help MWBEs, without enacting specific race-based resolutions that are often subject to political controversies and court challenges.  

To help bolster MWBEs and all small businesses across North Carolina. Governor Cooper should establish a Small Business Reserve Program under the Office of Historically Underutilized Businesses, that offers 15% of State Agency procurement projects as set asides for certified small businesses.