Moira's Message: Equitable Economic Mobility

We are investing $2,120,000 in 16 partners to enable equitable economic mobility by addressing the systemic barriers that get in the way of accessing and retaining good jobs, including self-employment, for individuals with low income.
June 28, 2022
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CINCINNATI (June 28, 2022) —

Dear United Way friends,

Economic well-being for all in our region is our mission here at United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Everything we do funnels down to that goal.

This is especially true of our new Equitable Economic Mobility investment portfolio. We are investing $2,120,000 in 16 partners to enable equitable economic mobility by addressing the systemic barriers that get in the way of accessing and retaining good jobs, including self-employment, for individuals with low income. Asset building provides greater opportunities for families to sustain intergenerational economic well-being.

Economic mobility is a complex issue often impacted by systems and structures beyond the control of any one individual. Those systems and structures affect people differently and have been especially detrimental to Black and Hispanic communities and other historically marginalized populations.

In Greater Cincinnati, 26% of individuals are living with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level ($55,500 for a family of four). Those individuals are disproportionally Black and Hispanic or Latino people. Households earning 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) are often considered to have the financial resources to be “self-sufficient” or meet their basic living expenses – not necessarily have economic well-being.

The average Black and Hispanic households earn about half as much as their white peers and own only 12% as much net wealth. As defined by the Pew Research Center, wealth is “the value of assets owned by a family, such as a home or savings account…that provides security and social status for future generations”.

We most recently saw Black families experience a harder time weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 46% of Black households took out loans and 28.5% borrowed from friends and families. “This mimics a long-standing problem for many in marginalized communities”, said one educator and community developer we interviewed during our extensive research into opportunity areas United Way should support.

“The challenge with lack of access to capital, especially for businesses in marginalized communities causes businesses and families to fall into predatory lending practices (payday loans, high interest rates), raises income to debt ratio, lowering credit scores, and leaving them with no opportunity to build wealth because they are just trying to survive.” said the educator.

Our research found:

  • 56% of participants ranked economic and financial well-being in their top three prioritized challenges.
  • 85% of participants think educational opportunities after high school are important to get a good job, but only 36% think those educational opportunities are easy to find and access. 
  • 22% of participants think most jobs will meet people’s financial needs and a majority think those jobs are difficult to obtain.  

We will challenge our partners to develop systemic solutions to these problems. For example, the many factors that inhibit economic advancement are often specific to each family. Those families, or individuals, can provide insight into the policies and practices holding them back. By involving them in the design of new solutions, there is opportunity to improve the policies and practices that currently contribute to economic disparities. Our solutions must involve community voice.

While economic well-being is often assessed through financial indicators. Economic well-being encompasses more than just income; it is achieving a state of having present and future financial security, including feeling a sense of satisfaction and personal fulfillment with one's personal finances and employment pursuits. Earning a self-sufficient wage does not necessarily provide families with available resources to build savings or invest in assets.

Too often solutions focus only on changing income alone and miss opportunities to support a mental shift towards more holistic well-being. By partnering together, there is an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to combine their individual expertise to test holistic solutions that build equitable economic well-being.

The challenge is complex, but, by coming together to address this systemically, we are enhancing the chance of economic well-being for all.


Moira Weir
United Way of Greater Cincinnati



Learn more about this Systems Change portfolio and our 16 partners who will aid in improving the effectiveness of the nonprofit system of care.

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