To be healthy, people need the stability, confidence and aspiration gained through earning a reliable and growing income, saving money, and owning assets. Yet many Californians face barriers to achieving enough income to meet basic needs, let alone build wealth – the single most important factor that influences health.
Using the metaphor of a house to talk about economic security, we strive to strengthen the floor and eliminate the ceiling. "Strengthening the floor" means focusing on reinforcing a social safety net that protects people from economic distress when faced with unexpected situations. And "eliminating the ceiling" means emphasizing post-secondary education and training, and access to good jobs that provide living wages, strong benefits and career paths. Eliminating the ceiling also includes entrepreneurship and growing assets – from homeownership to retirement savings.
According to the Asset Funders Network, wealth helps to explain the long-standing racial health inequities that endure in our nation. It may be surprising to realize that the term "wealth" doesn’t necessarily refer to millionaires. Rather, AFN defines “high wealth” as possessing $104,000 or more in total assets. On average, White households are about 10 times wealthier than Black ones, and Whites have traditionally and historically had more assets than Blacks. To challenge entrenched inequities, we prioritize Californians from communities of color and low-income communities. These communities have long faced, and continue to face, systemic barriers to realizing their aspirations and achieving fulfilling lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economic security of millions of Americans and set off a catastrophic economic event for our country. It’s clear that millions are on the edge of financial ruin. Yet the current crisis offers both an opportunity to plan for economic recovery, and to reimagine what a more economically just world looks like. Our commitment and work in this area predates COVID-19 and will endure beyond this moment—and we’re committed to long-term change.
Our Economic Security and Dignity portfolio aims to advance the economic well-being of Californians, especially those from low-income communities and communities of color.