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Children and families across the United States experience racial and economic disparities that stem from a complex web of systems designed to perpetuate inequities. High rates of family homelessness, low rates of high school graduation and stagnating incomes all point to systems that fail to serve a large portion of the U.S. population — particularly people of color. Although economic growth has propelled some communities forward, systemic challenges and persistent disparities remain a defining issue for many. Wealth disparities are divided along racial lines, with the average white household earning 10 times more than the average Black household.1

This racial wealth gap is the direct result of historical injustices and biased policies that are present in numerous systems, including in housing and education. Evidence of these biased systems surrounds us and is readily apparent in the disparate housing and education outcomes experienced by families across the United States. Examples of these disparities are illustrated in the graphic below.2

[2] 2 Nick Noel, Duwain Pinder, Shelley Stewart III, and Jason Wright. “The Economic Impact of Closing the Racial Wealth Gap.” McKinsey & Company. August 2019.
73% 40% 34% Grad Cap 24%


of white


own a home, compared to


of Black


34% of white adults over the age of 25

hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to


of Black adults over the age of 25

The stark reality of these disparities has not gone unnoticed. Although both the housing and education sectors are on the front lines of addressing these challenges, much of this work has been done in silos. Collaborative partnerships between these sectors offer a promising pathway for addressing the root causes of generational poverty.

This toolkit highlights case studies of emerging partnerships between housing and education organizations focused on a set of shared outcomes — or shared goals — that enable organizations from both sectors to come together to close disparity gaps and enable economic mobility in their communities. The toolkit offers resources and examples for others looking to engage in similar collaborations.

[1] 1 Lisa J. Dettling, Joanne W. Hsu, Lindsay Jacobs, Kevin B. Moore, and Jeffrey P. Thompson, with assistance from Elizabeth Llanes. “Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances.” FEDS Notes. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, September 2017.

Defining Economic Mobility

Economic mobility typically is measured in quantifiable or economic terms, such as increases in income, assets or wealth. Although useful for measurement, these terms fail to capture the full context of the disparities and systemic challenges that influence an individual’s ability to improve their economic status. The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, a partnership funded by the Gates Foundation and supported by the Urban Institute, expanded this definition through its collaborative work in 2018.3

[3] The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. Accessed March 15, 2020, .

The partnership — composed of leaders in academia, the faith community, philanthropy and the private sector — defined mobility from poverty using three interrelated principles: economic success, such as higher income and greater wealth; power and autonomy, referring to an individual’s sense of control over the trajectory of their lives; and being valued in community, or a person’s sense of belonging.4 Throughout this toolkit, the term “economic mobility” is intended to reflect all three aspects of mobility from poverty.

Economic SuccessMobility
Being Valued in Community
Power and Autonomy

The Partnership’s collective ambition is that all people achieve a reasonable standard of living with the dignity that comes from having power over their lives and being engaged in and valued by their community. 5 


[5] The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. “The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty.” Accessed March 15, 2020,
[4] Stanford Social Psychological Answers to Real-world Questions (SPARQ). “Measuring Mobility Toolkit.” March 15, 2020,

A Pathway to Economic Mobility

Housing and education are important foundations for future success that underpin many aspects of mobility from poverty. With stable, well-connected and affordable housing, individuals and families can save money, access needed resources, improve their health, remain rooted in community, and even build wealth and access equity through homeownership. Research demonstrates that an individual’s housing stability during childhood directly affects their education experiences and future economic well- being as an adult.6 With quality education, children can build confidence, develop interpersonal skills, pursue academic achievement and access opportunities for future growth.

With growing wealth and income inequality, the need to improve economic mobility for households with lower incomes becomes more urgent each year. For both the housing and the education sectors, structural racism, continued disinvestment, and persistent racial and economic disparities often are glaringly evident in urban and rural communities alike. The deliberate physical and economic segregation of people of color, in particular of Black Americans, has created high rates of residential and educational segregation. The resulting concentration of poverty has inhibited neighborhood investment and led to poor quality housing and under-resourced schools.7

In the housing sector, disinvestment in minority neighborhoods and discriminatory practices like redlining have been well documented for decades, resulting in an enormous loss of wealth for generations of people of color. In education, the achievement gap, disparate college attainment rates, and unequal school spending remain critical disadvantages and challenges. Nearly half of Black children, at 45 percent, attend high-poverty schools. This is more than five times the rate of white children attending high-poverty schools, at 8 percent, and is only one indication of many in a system that has perpetuated segregation and fails to serve all children and families equitably.8

As the housing and education sectors begin to partner and align their work toward economic mobility, it is critical to bring racial equity to the forefront. This toolkit focuses on racial equity as an outcome for families, an approach to systems transformation and a key part of the cross-sector partnership process.

The recognition that stable, affordable housing is needed to achieve good educational outcomes — and that better educational outcomes are needed for improving the life trajectories of low-income children — provides the ideal mission alignment between affordable housing providers and schools.9 

Former Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

[9] Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Housing as a Portal to Better Educational and Life Outcomes.” Accessed March 15, 2020,

Take Action

Interested in learning more about Enterprise’s partnership work?

[6] Veronica Gaitán. “How Housing Affects Children’s Outcomes.” Housing Matters, an Urban Institute Initiative. January 2019.
[008] Reed Jordan. “High-Poverty Schools Undermine Education for Children of Color.” Urban Institute. May 2015.
[007] Kimberly Quick and Richard D. Kahlenberg. “Attacking the Black–White Opportunity Gap That Comes from Residential Segregation.” The Century Foundation. June 2019.