Equity Gap Toolkit:
Concrete Actions We Can Take to Close Equity Gaps
It has been a difficult few months. The major healthcare inequities unmasked by COVID-19 and the continued disparate treatment of people of color in America make it clear that now more than ever is the right time to address major inequality issues within our society.
Our Office’s Policy and Research Unit reports have highlighted data demonstrating that there are clear equity gaps that must be closed.
In addition to ensuring a more just society, closing these gaps could have a clear economic benefit.
The most recent update to the Black Economic Equity report released by the Comptroller’s Office highlighted several findings, including the stunning figure by Policy Link and Urban League of Long Island that in one year alone, Long Island’s economy could have been nearly $24 billion stronger if racial gaps in income did not exist. Further, the report highlighted that if these gaps were closed, aggregate Black income on Long Island would grow by $4.5 billion (1). Not only would this close the income gap, the increased economic benefit would mitigate the tax burden for County residents.
It is time to not only speak up in support of racial and social equality but also to address these gaps through advocating for specific action.
Intersectional equity gaps make the Deal of living on Long Island nearly impossible for many. Proactive solutions will ensure that we can not only keep the next generation here on Long Island, but that the next generation will build a stronger community through consciousness of these concerns.
The Policy and Research Unit has released a series of reports highlighting inequities, including:
- The Child Care Gap How the Price of Child Care Impacts "The Deal" of Living in Nassau County
- This is Nassau: Modernizing "The Deal" of Living in Nassau County
- Understanding the Impact of Food Insecurity
- This is Nassau: Black Economic Equity Update
- This is Nassau: The Deal for the Next Generation
- This is Nassau: Demographic Profile
Let's Talk About Gaps
Nassau County’s long-term financial success is reliant upon a strong middle class, and one that is not stratified along racial or class lines. The gaps that exist in wealth, furthered by disparities in income, unemployment, home-ownership, and educational attainment, need to be addressed to ensure economic prosperity. These gaps diminish our tax base and increase the need for government services.
Racial Equity Gaps
- Income and Wage
- Credit Access
The legacies of past policies, systemic failures, and de-facto segregation have left an indelible mark on our country and our community. While these challenges and solutions are a starting point to help make our community more equitable, they are by no means encompassing of all of the issues that must be addressed.
1: Close the Homeownership Gap
Homeownership has been an engine for wealth creation in the United States. It is a vital component for sustainable communities. The housing policies of the past, continue to fuel the racial homeownership disparities of today. There have been many targeted programs to increase minority homeownership, nevertheless the racial homeownership gap persists. As of the fourth quarter of 2019, the national gap between Black and white homeownership was over 30% (2).
In November of 2019, Newsday published a report on discriminatory practices by real estate agents on Long Island after a 3-year investigation with over 90 real estate agents tested (3). The troubling results included unequal treatment and directing clients toward certain neighborhoods depending on their perceived race.
What Action Steps Can We Take?
- Rating Real Estate Firms to Discourage Discriminatory Practices - In response to Newsday’s expose’ of wide-spread racial steering on Long Island, the former President of the Long Island Housing Partnership recently stressed that case-by-case testing aimed at ‘catching” individuals may not be the most comprehensive or effective way to combat systemic discrimination in residential real estate. Adopting a systemic approach based around the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)'s uniform four tiered rating system used to assess CRA performance could serve as a tool to rate real estate firms and discourage discriminatory practices. Low scores would damage real estate firms' public reputation and prevent them from expanding, while high scores would receive tax benefits (4).
- Consider Rent, Utility Bills, and Other Payments in Credit Score Calculations- In 2017, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York produced a credit profile for Long Island. The profile found that when analyzing credit metrics, Long Island is one of the highest performing regions in the country. However, 18 communities with high populations of Black Long Islanders rank among the lowest performing in the nation. These communities are concentrated in areas that have large Black populations rank among the lowest in the nation (5). Allowing credit scores to account for rent payments, utility and phone bills can help increase credit scores for people in these communities.
- Increased Awareness - Raising awareness around existing Federal and State programs that help first-time home buyers could contribute to a higher Black homeownership rate and ultimately reduce the schism.
2: Close the Educational Achievement and Student Debt Gaps
Nassau County’s progress in educational achievement has not been equitable across racial lines. In fact, 5% more of the share of the white population have earned a high school diploma or equivalent compared to the Black population. When analyzing advanced degrees, the County's gap is a staggering 18% (6). Consequently, many Black Nassau County residents are less prepared for the economy of the future.
The burden of student debt is particularly prominent among certain groups, including young adults and minorities. In 2020, Americans collectively owe more than $1.6 trillion in student debt. One in five U.S. households has student loan debt, compared to one in ten in 1989 (7).
The average tuition to attend a traditional four-year institution for the 2019-2020 year is $10,440 for in-state public schools, $26,820 for out-of-state public schools and $36,880 for private schools (8). Most students and their families have to borrow to have an opportunity of earning a college degree.
Moreover, Black households that are disadvantaged by generational wealth disparities carry a disproportionately high burden of student loan debts. Nationally, about one-third of African American 2015-2016 bachelor’s degree recipients accumulated $40,000 or more in debt, compared with 18 percent overall graduates (9).
What Action Steps Can We Take?
The ramifications of increased student debt have been detrimental to Nassau County’s economy as young adults and minorities struggle to both build their livelihoods and pursue higher education. Instead of young adults spending money in Nassau's local economy, they are paying down their debt. In fact, 40% of student debt holders postpone getting married and having kids (10).
- Raise The Cap for Interest Rate Deductions - Congresswoman Kathleen Rice introduced the Students and Families Empowerment Act which would increase the interest deduction cap to $750,000, which is the same amount that same interest deduction cap for mortgages (11).
- Student Debt Reduction - Expansion of programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness reduce debt burdens of individuals in the nonprofit/public sectors.
- Increased Financial Aid - Funding financial aid can both increase college access and lower student debt. At the federal level, advocates have been pushing to increase Pell Grant funding. In New York State, the Excelsior Scholarship provides $6,470 per year to cover SUNY or CUNY tuition costs for students whose household income is below $125,000 and complete 30 credits each year. These programs can be analyzed and expanded to help more students (12).
3: Only the Beginning
Recent events have forced us to address the fact that while Long Island has a place in history as America’s first suburb, it also has a troubled history of systemic inequality.
While we have unquestionably made much progress, significant moments like Newsday’s groundbreaking reporting from earlier this year showed us just how pervasive systemic inequality is within our community and that equity gaps still exist for many.
While these challenges and solutions are a starting point to help make our community more equitable, they are by no means encompassing of all of the issues that must be addressed.
Intersectional equity gaps make the Deal of living on Long Island nearly impossible for many. Proactive solutions will ensure that we can not only keep the next generation here on Long Island, but that the next generation can build a stronger community through consciousness of these concerns.
In the time immediately ahead, the Comptroller’s Office will continue to highlight the gaps that exist in our community, as well as specific steps that will help close them.
In the meantime, if there are issues that you think the Policy and Research Team should look into, or you have comments on our office’s work, please feel free to reach out to us directly at ReportItReformIt@nassaucountyny.gov
1. "An Equity Profile of Long Island," Policy Link, policylink.org.
2. "Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership," U.S. Census Bureau, Third Quarter 2018, census.ny.gov.
3. Choi, Ann, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslowand and Arthur Browne. "Long Island Divided," Newsday. 17 November 2019, projects.newsday.com/long-island/real-estate-agents-investigation/.
4. Morgo, Jim. Bayport. "Punishing Biased Real Estate Agents," Newsday, 2019: Opinon/Letter Section. Print.
5. "Long Island Credit Profile 2017", Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2017 newyorkfed.org.
6. "Educational Attainment. 2018 American Community Survey 5 Year Estimate," U.S. Census Bureau, data.census.gov.
7. "Average published charges, 2018-19 and 2019-20," 2019, College Board, https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/2019-trendsincp-table-1.pdf.
8. "Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2016," National Center for Education Statistics, 2016, nces.ed.gov/datalab/index.aspx.
9. Baum, Sandy. "Student Debt: The Unique Circumstances of African American Students," 14 February 2019, American Council on Education, https://www.equityinhighered.org/resources/ideas-and-insights/student-debt-the-unique-circumstances-of-african-american-students/.
10. "Life Delayed: The Impact of Student Debt on the Daily Lives of Young Americans," American Student Assistant, 2015, https://file.asa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/28203317/Life-Delayed-2015.pdf.
11. Aciman, Michael. "Rep. Kathleen Rice Introduces Bill to Ease Student Loan Debt." Congresswomen Kathleen Rice, 21 Sept. 2018, https://kathleenrice.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=446.
12. "Excelsior Scholarship Program." New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, New York State, https://www.hesc.ny.gov/pay-for-college/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid/nys-grants-scholarships-awards/the-excelsior-scholarship.html.
National Home Mortgage Denial Rate Graphic:
13. Pew Research Center. 2017. Blacks and Hispanics Face Extra Challenges in Getting Home Loans. Retrieved pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/10/blacks-and-hispanics-face-extra-challenges-in-getting-home-loans/.
Student Debt Graphics:
14. "Average published charges, 2018-19 and 2019-20," College Board, 2019, https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/2019-trendsincp-table-1.pdf.
15. "Trends in Student Aid," College Board, 2009, https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-student-aid-2009-full-report.pdf.
16. Baum, Sandy. "Student Debt: The Unique Circumstances of African American Students," 14 February 2019, American Council on Education, https://www.equityinhighered.org/resources/ideas-and-insights/student-debt-the-unique-circumstances-of-african-american-students/.
17. "Life Delayed: The Impact of Student Debt on the Daily Lives of Young Americans," American Student Assistant, 2015, https://file.asa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/28203317/Life-Delayed-2015.pdf.
18. "Regional Household Debt and Credit Snapshots," Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Updated August 2016 with Q4 2015 data, https://www.newyorkfed.org/outreach-and-education/regional-household-credit.