All Americans should have equal opportunity to earn their success, rise on their merit, and live their own American Dream. But that is not the case today.
Far too often, the opportunity to obtain an education, secure a job, start a business, or provide for your family is determined by the color of your skin. These systemic inequalities hurt individuals, communities, our economy, and our society.
Through the Equality of Opportunity Initiative, we are developing and advancing data-driven business and policy solutions to bridge opportunity gaps and ensure that Black Americans and people of color have greater opportunities to succeed.
A Conversation on the Future of Business and Education
On September 21, 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a conversation on the Future of Business and Education in conjunction with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The Chamber convened business leaders and the presidents and chancellors of HBCUs from across the country to discuss important issues such as education, future of work, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Policy Agenda | Opportunity Gaps | Our Partners
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY AGENDA
Policy Recommendations and Private Sector Solutions to Address Gaps Negatively Affecting Black Americans
Driven by data and informed by conversations with business, government, academic, and civic leaders, 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 to help close race-based gaps in four areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and criminal justice.
We also will continue to identify and advance other solutions to help close the equality of opportunity gaps.
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THE OPPORTUNITY GAPS
In order to drive meaningful, measurable impact, we must listen, learn, and lead.
In June 2020, we released America's Opportunity Gaps: By the Numbers, a research compilation to help quantify the racial divides in key areas and explore some of the contributing factors. The findings inform our work as we pursue targeted, data-driven, and sustainable policy and private sector solutions through our Equality of Opportunity Agenda.
The unemployment rate is historically about twice as high for Black Americans as white Americans, and today, less than half of Black adults have a job – trends that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and corresponding economic fallout, according to recent analysis.
Black Americans are underrepresented among business owners, and Black-owned companies are on average significantly smaller by employee size and revenue than white-owned businesses. Importantly, research shows Black-owned businesses struggle to access funding and thus start their businesses with less capital than white entrepreneurs.
All other factors held equal, the gap in educational opportunities and achievement between Black Americans and other groups is substantial. While Black Americans are catching up to white Americans in terms of high school graduation and college enrollment, there has been less progress in closing degree attainment and skill acquisition gaps.
In 2019, for example, 29% of the Black American population aged 25 to 29 held a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 45% of the white population in the same age range.
Previously convicted Americans receive insufficient preparation and inadequate assistance and resources, making re-entry into communities challenging.
A criminal conviction limits eligibility for things like public housing and social services, and studies show that the most significant challenge they face is re-entering the labor market and finding employment. These challenges disproportinately hurt Black Americans and predominantly Black communities.
Thanks to the more than 500 state and local chambers and national business associations that have already joined the Equality of Opportunity Initiative.
These organizations will participate in the National Summit, and they have committed to hosting similar conversations and taking action in their own communities and industries to address inequality of opportunity across America.
The initiative’s national steering committee represents leaders across industries and geographies:
- Geoff Freeman, President and CEO, Consumer Brands Association
- Glenn Hamer, President and CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- John Harmon, Founder, President and CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
- Bill Miller, President and CEO, American Gaming Association
- Susan Neely, President and CEO, American Council of Life Insurers
- Vincent B. Orange, Sr., President and CEO, DC Chamber of Commerce
- Carlos Phillips, President and CEO, Greenville (SC) Chamber of Commerce
- Jim Rooney, President and CEO, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
- Maria Salinas, President and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
- Matt Shay, President and CEO, National Retail Federation
NATIONAL SUMMIT ON EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
On June 25, 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted the National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, and convened leaders from across the private and public sectors discuss solutions to some of the underlying challenges driving inequality of opportunity for Black Americans.
Through the Next-Gen program, the U.S. Chamber is working with historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions to expose students to new career opportunities, promote entrepreneurship, and advance diversity at all levels of business.
In partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the U.S. Chamber is working to build and advance the business case for racial equity through research and roundtable conversations in select communities across the country.
Through a partnership with the Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber is working to strengthen Black-owned businesses, and we are collaborating with Skys The Limit to inspire and develop the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs (Learn more).
The U.S. Chamber advocates for policies that advance diversity, equality and inclusion in our economy, including corporate board diversity, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and more.
Through the America Working Forward: Hidden Workforce project, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation cast a light on people and programs creating pathways to quality jobs for individuals with a criminal record.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Corporate Citizenship Center partnered with Amway to assess and provide insights on racial disparities in health in Kent County, Michigan, with a focus on maternal and childhood health.
In partnership with the Gill Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Incorporating Inclusion initiative is a first-of-its-kind research and education program established to demonstrate the corporate and community value of LGBT-inclusive workplaces.
Through the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, the Chamber has explored the unique challenges facing minority small business owners.
A new report from MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates that the coronavirus pandemic has hit minority-owned small businesses disproportionately hard as more minority-owned businesses fear permanent closure and are struggling to secure loans. Additionally, there has been a 17-point increase from the beginning of 2020 in the number of small businesses believing minority-owned small businesses face more challenges than non-minority owned ones.
How Diversity Unlocks Business Potential (Feb. 2020)
Why Greater Diversity is an Economic Imperative (Sept. 2019)