June 24, 2020


Report highlights magnitude and causes of racial divides in education, employment, entrepreneurship, health, wealth development, and criminal justice

Data provides foundation for Equality of Opportunity Initiative and National Summit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today published America’s Opportunity Gaps: By The Numbers, a compilation of research that documents the inequality of opportunity for Black Americans and people of color. Released the day before the Chamber’s National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, the report quantifies racial divides in six critical areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, criminal justice, health, and wealth development.

“In order to drive meaningful, measurable impact through public policy and private sector solutions, we must listen, learn, and lead,” said Suzanne P. Clark, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This research informs our work as we pursue targeted, data-driven, and sustainable solutions that will help deliver the American promise of equal opportunity to all.”

Key findings and takeaways from the analysis include:

  • On education:Black students are twice as likely as white students to attend high-poverty schools; less than half as likely to be reading at grade level in the fourth grade; nearly 10 percent less likely to graduate from high school; and about half as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • On employment:For the past four decades, Black unemployment rates have been consistently twice as high as white unemployment rates, and Black Americans are underrepresented among high-earning management positions.
  • On entrepreneurship:Black Americans are underrepresented among entrepreneurs and are less likely than white Americans to launch businesses. When they do, Black-owned businesses struggle to access capital and tend to have lower revenues and fewer employees.
  • On criminal justice:Black Americans represent 27% of arrests, about twice their proportion of the population. Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted. Once convicted, they are more likely to face long prison sentences. Moreover, having a prior conviction reduces employer callback rates by 65% for Black male job applicants versus a 50% reduction for white men.
  • On health:Black Americans have markedly worse health outcomes than white Americans; they are adversely and disproportionately impacted by poor access to primary care; and they are less likely to have health insurance.
  • On wealth:The net worth of the average white American family ($171,000) is nearly 10 times greater than that of the average Black American family ($17,150). Black Americans also are much more likely to experience poverty (21%) than white Americans (8%).

Click here to read the full report and access sources

Pandemic exacerbates opportunity gaps

Several of the existing opportunity gaps have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding economic fallout. In recent months, Black and Latino workers were more likely to lose their jobs (23% and 24%, respectively) than white and Asian American workers (15% and 13%, respectively). Meanwhile, the number of Black-American, non-employer business owners in the U.S. dropped by a staggering 41% from February to April and the number of Latinx non-employer entrepreneurs dropped 32%, compared to a 17% drop for white business owners.

The findings provide the foundation for the U.S. Chamber’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative, which kicks off Thursday, June 25 with a National Summit featuring numerous business and non-profit leaders (registration and the full agenda are available here). In creating the initiative, the U.S. Chamber has partnered with more than 500 local and state chambers and national business associations to pursue policy and private sector solutions to help bridge underlying racial divides that contribute to broader, systemic inequalities in our society (learn more).

“All Americans should have equal opportunity to earn their success, rise on their merit and live their own American Dream,” Clark said. “But far too often, the opportunity to obtain an education, secure a job, start a business, and provide for a family is determined by the color of one’s skin. The business community is committed to addressing these systemic racial inequalities, which harm individuals, families, neighborhoods, and our economy.”