July 06, 2020
- Equality of Opportunity in Action: Inclusive Infrastructure Investment
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the Equality of Opportunity Initiative in June 2020 to develop real, sustainable solutions to help close race-based opportunity gaps in four areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice. Systemic inequalities in these four areas perpetuate broader inequalities in our society, hold back individual and business success, and hinder economic growth.
Driven by data and informed by conversations with business, government, academic, and civic leaders, in July 2020 we developed this initial Equality of Opportunity Agenda to advance private sector solutions and best practices, scale impactful programs, and drive policy action at the federal, state, and local level.
We also will continue to identify and advance other solutions to help close the equality of opportunity gaps.
Together, we can—and we must—turn national dialogue into nationwide action. We are committed to reclaiming and reaffirming the American promise of equal opportunity for all.
Closing America's Education Gap
Longstanding race-based education gaps continue to exist at all levels, from early childhood and K-12 to postsecondary education and on-the-job training. These education gaps perpetuate inequalities in employment, income and wealth development.
- Black students are twice as likely to attend high-poverty schools than their white peers
- Math scores for Black students entering kindergarten are 21% lower than those of white students
- Only one in five Black 4th graders are reading on grade level, compared to half of the white students
- Only 15.3% of Black students earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 23% of white students
Closing America's Employment Gap
For decades, Black unemployment rates have been consistently twice as high as white unemployment rates. Black Americans are underrepresented among high-earning management positions, and even within the same positions and education levels, Black workers earn less than their white counterparts.
- Black Americans represent 12% of the American workforce but only 9% of workers in “high earning management and professional” positions
- Within "high earning managerial and professional" roles, the median weekly earnings for Black men is $1,167, 24% lower than the $1,538 earned by white men in high-earning roles
- Black and Hispanic workers with a bachelor’s degree and higher have lower median weekly earnings ($1,065 and $1,101 respectively) than Asian and white workers ($1,465 and $1,342).
- During the pandemic, Black (23%) and Latinx (24%) workers are more likely than white (15%) and Asian American (13%) workers to have been laid off.
Closing America's Entrepreneurship Gap
Black Americans are underrepresented among entrepreneurs, and Black-owned businesses tend to have fewer employees and less revenue than white-owned firms. Black business owners struggle to access capital for their ventures.
- Black Americans represent 12% of the labor force but only 9.4% of business owners
- Black-owned businesses tend to be smaller, as well. Companies owned by whites average annual sales more than double those of firms owned by Blacks
- Black-owned businesses are less than half as likely to get financing as white-owned firms and nearly three times more likely to have profits negatively impacted by a lack of capital
Addressing Inequality in Criminal Justice
Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; once convicted, they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. A prior conviction makes reentry into society and the economy disproportionately challenging for Black Americans.
- Black Americans represent 27% of arrests and 40% of the incarcerated population, more than double and triple their proportion of the American population (13%), respectively
- Unemployment rates for formerly incarcerated Black males and females are 28 and 37 percentage points higher, respectively, than the rate for Black males and females overall. The “prison penalty” jobless rate increase for white males and females are 14 and 19 percentage points, respectively.
- Having a prior conviction reduces employer callback rates by 65% for Black male job applicants versus a 50% reduction for white men.