Addressing Income Inequality in Massachusetts

What happens when the “tale of two cities” is in your own backyard?  This month, two national organizations — the Brookings Institute and the Corporation For Enterprise Development (CFED) both reported that Boston and Massachusetts, respectively, have the worst income inequality ranking in the nation.  Overall, however, Massachusetts ranks 14th, up from 19th, in the national Assets and Opportunity Scorecard rankings, faring well in education and health care but faring poorly in categories of home-ownership rates and housing costs.

But what’s more concerning is that over 1/3 of families in Massachusetts do not seem to have a clear path out of poverty or are one crisis away from homelessness or debt that can destroy their credit.  According to the CFED 2016 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard released this week, 35% of Massachusetts families are “locked into a new normal of financial insecurity.” That means they are unable to save even three months of living expenses to handle an emergency, such as an unexpected job loss or illness.

Our Financial Stability Center network (with sites in Roxbury, Downtown Boston, Lawrence, Lynn, Chelsea and Quincy) provide financial coaching and services to help low-income individuals save and build assets. In 2015, these centers helped 202 people find jobs. In addition, clients of the services saw a median increase of $469  in their monthly net income, a median increase of $3,588 in their net worth, and a median increase of 31 points in credit scores.

Our partners in these centers include the City of Boston, Lawrence Community Works, Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development, Quincy Community Action Programs, The Neighborhood Developers and Jewish Vocational Services.

This year, continuing our long-standing partnership with Bank of America, we will be funding free tax preparation services and staffing over 25 tax prep volunteers at these Financial Stability Centers.  In 2014, the statewide median EITC refund was $2,081.  By connecting the free tax preparation services to the budget coaching resources at the centers, we will be able to track how many tax prep clients are connected to the longer-term services offered, with the goal of increasing their financial security.

Our goal: to close the book on being a “tale of two cities” and make Boston – and other cities in our region – a city that offers economic opportunity to all.  Learn more about our work to help families.