Working Together to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
The Greater Washington region is home to a vibrant economy. Encompassing Fortune 1000 companies, prestigious universities and a highly educated workforce, the area is one of the largest high-tech corridors outside Silicon Valley.
However, it’s also a region with deep economic disparity. The divide is stark: almost one-fifth of the population is living in poverty. The racial wealth gap in the region is eight times greater than the national average, with white households having 81 times the wealth of Black households — and we know that the pandemic has only widened the gap.
As Vice Chairman at JPMorgan Chase and Board Chair at the Greater Washington Partnership, I believe that business has a role to play in addressing the root causes of the racial wealth gap. The global pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on communities of color has caused us to think even more deeply about this role. Four years ago, JPMorgan Chase announced the expansion of our business in the Greater Washington region. We knew from the outset that our business growth is tied to the prosperity of this region and all of its residents. That’s why alongside our business expansion we made a philanthropic commitment to invest in underserved communities of color, starting in Washington, D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8 and quickly expanding to Baltimore and Richmond.
We’ve listened closely to what the community told us about how we can support the creation of an economy that works for everyone. In response, we formed partnerships with other businesses, nonprofits, government entities, and community organizations to make investments, create programs and advance policies that help drive economic opportunity for more people.
Philanthropy and government can’t fix a broken system alone; they must work together in a united effort to become a part of the solution. Our strategy is focused on catalyzing systems change and driving the policies required to close the racial wealth divide today — and for generations to come. We are excited to share what we’ve learned to help inform the work that is still needed to create wider economic opportunity in the region.
It is critical to take a proactive approach. This means increasing our banking services, with new branches in such places as Wards 7 & 8, Cherry Hill, and West Baltimore. It also means supporting access to capital, advancing efforts to increase availability of, and access to, affordable sustainable rental housing and homeownership, and focusing our philanthropic investments where they can make the greatest impact. We have also learned that regional collaboration is essential to creating lasting change. In addition to our work with the Greater Washington Partnership, we are working with organizations like Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF) and Harbor Bank of Maryland, as well as other corporations, foundations, policymakers, and nonprofits large and small, to advance equitable economic solutions together.
We are applying these lessons as we expand our business and philanthropic efforts with a $75 million regional commitment. Our expansion is driven by the conviction that investing in our communities is good business — and is good for our customers and employees who live and work in the region.
We are grateful to our community, business, and government partners who have been part of this journey. We deeply value their efforts and guidance as we continue to apply and share the lessons we’ve learned as we work to help create equitable growth in this vibrant region. There is more work to be done, and we are committed to evolving, learning, and driving change together.