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Key points from the Aspen Institute Summit on Inequality and Opportunity

By Leah Silverberg

On March 16, the Aspen Institute held its annual Summit on Inequality & Opportunity in Washington, D.C. The conversations this year largely focused on income inequality and the difficulty of upward financial mobility for low-income families, contributing to the widening opportunity gap in the United States.

In the first panel of the day, Jonathan Morduch, Professor of Public Policy and Economics at New York University, and Rachel Schneider, Senior Vice President at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, talked about their book The Financial Diaries and what they learned from tracking the finances of 235 low- and middle-income families over the course of a year. One key finding from the study demonstrated the overwhelming amount of income instability that low- and middle-income families experience from month to month and how it affects their daily lives and the way they plan their finances.

Other speakers included Anne Stuhldreher, Director of Financial Justice for the City and County of San Francisco, and Rev. Starsky Wilson, President and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, who talked about how low-income families are disproportionately targeted and affected by government fees and fines. Representatives from DC Central Kitchen talked about how their program that is trying to support these families by providing career training. The summit also discussed how populations of color are disproportionately affected by these inequities—writer Elizabeth Acevedo discussed her experiences as a person of color existing in the predominantly white and male space of poetry.

Closing the gap with afterschool

Time and again, the data has shown that afterschool programs help all families by providing children with a safe and supportive environment, nutritious snacks and meals, and academic support when they may otherwise be unsupervised after school. Children living in communities of concentrated poverty stand to benefit the most:

  • Our America After 3PM report shows that the demand for afterschool programs is much higher among children living in communities of concentrated poverty than children nationally.
  • 24 percent of children in communities of concentrated poverty participate in afterschool programs, compared to 18 percent nationally, and 56 percent of parents in those communities say that their children would participate in an afterschool program if one were available to them, compared to the national average of 41 percent.
  • 83 percent of parents living in communities of concentrated poverty agree that afterschool programs help working parents keep their jobs.

Threats to growing stability

Supporting these programs provides stability for families that live with so much instability in other parts of their lives. In the past few weeks President Trump has released his “skinny budget” outlining his budget priorities for the 2018 fiscal year. This budget proposes the complete elimination of funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative, which helps to fund afterschool programs nationally, and includes other cuts that will eliminate supports for low-income families. We are working to prevent this funding but we cannot do it without your support. You can contact your members of Congress today, or if you represent a local, state, or national organization, you can sign our letter of support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding.

Watch the full video of the Summit online and look out for next year’s Summit.

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learn more about: Economy Equity Federal Funding