Report Shows Racial Wealth Divide Growing in Seattle, Forum Will Explore Solutions

by Elizabeth Turnbull

A report published this week by the nonprofit Prosperity Now reveals that even before the pandemic arrived, certain communities of color in Seattle have less wealth than fellow white residents, are more likely to experience homelesness, and are more likely to be unemployed. In response, Prosperity Now will join five community organizations, including the Africatown Community Land Trust and Communities Rise, in a virtual meeting at noon on Tuesday, March 16 to focus on addressing this racial wealth divide in Seattle.

Ebony White, the author of the report, spoke to the economic disparities in Seattle that disproportionately break along racial lines.

“In Seattle the cost of living is very high compared to the U.S. — it’s faring better than the rest of the world, but when you look at the racial disparities of how people are faring off of cross-racial and ethnic diversities, that’s where you see the real economic and wealth disparities,” White told the Emerald. “And so, if you just look at it from the onset, you would think Seattle is doing good. The reality is that the white residents are doing good.” 

According to the report, which is based on data from 2018, the pre-COVID median wealth of white residents in Seattle was three times higher than that of Native American median household wealth; and Black residents were three times more likely to be unemployed than white residents.

In addition, Black residents, who make up 7% of Seattle’s population, account for 25% of the homeless population, while Native Americans, who are 1% of the city’s population, account for 15% of the homeless population, according to the report.

Regarding business income in Seattle, the report found that the average white-owned business is roughly 12 times the value of the average Black-owned business. This disparity exists in terms of overall wealth as well, and 31% of Black households in Seattle have zero net worth compared to 17.7% of white households, according to the report.

Through their work, Prosperity Now, formerly known as Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), is partnering with local community experts and activists to search for real solutions.

In an effort to address racial wealth disparities and other equity issues, the online panel will feature local community activists K. Wyking Garrett, the CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust, TraeAnna Holiday, a Community Builder with King County Equity Now, Michelle Merriweather, CEO of the Urban League of Seattle, and B.J. Stewart, Chief Operating Officer of Urban Impact.

Following the release of the report, five organizations, White Center Community Development Association, Urban League, Urban Impact, Communities Rise, and Africatown Community Land Trust are partnering with Prosperity Now to work toward solutions to racial economic inequality, which has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuesday’s virtual meeting will provide space for local activists and community members to become familiar with the data and also to hear what panelists see as steps going forward.

“We want people to use [the report] to educate themselves and others — it also can be used as an advocacy tool, so if that’s the work that you’re doing and you need the data to connect it to the story or the lived experience of the clients you’re working with, come learn about this report,” White said. “I don’t want people to come there thinking that we’re just going to talk about data, we’re just going to talk about the issues, we really want to [discuss] solutions, too.” 

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

Featured Image: Photo by Bill Branson, National Institutes of Health; image in the public domain.

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