Skip to Content

Working For The Rent Money

New data from Zillow, the real estate and rental marketplace site, shows black and Latinx people are spending more of their money on rent than they were even a few years ago. That, combined with comparatively sluggish wage growth, adds up to what Skylar Olsen, a senior economist for Zillow, calls an “affordability crisis.”

Fortune breaks it down: “In 2016, it took about 44% of income to make rent in predominantly black communities, up from 40% five years earlier,” according to the report Zillow released Thursday. “In Hispanic communities, about 48% of income goes to the monthly rent check, up from 41% in 2011.”

People in primarily white communities are spending closer to 31% of their income on rent. Here’s where the math gets even trickier: The average income for households in black neighborhoods has increased about 2.9% over the last five years, compared to a 5.4% rise in white communities.

Affordability is a serious issue. When you’re spending almost half your income on rent, you’re not saving for emergencies, career development, retirement, let alone for a down payment on a house. And the zip codes in question, all highly segregated, often lack the investment and amenities that make for truly happy neighborhoods. That is, until, gentrification comes to call. As people are displaced, it becomes increasingly unlikely that a young professional of color can afford to live near desirable employers in bold faced towns like San Francisco, Manhattan or Austin.

But affordability is not the only issue in play.

Last year, the New York Times analyzed 2014 census figures and found that income alone can’t explain why neighborhoods remain so segregated in the U.S.:

“The choices that black families make today are inevitably constrained by a legacy of racism that prevented their ancestors from buying quality housing and then passing down wealth that might have allowed today’s generation to move into more stable communities. And even when black households try to cross color boundaries, they are not always met with open arms: Studies have shown that white people prefer to live in communities where there are fewer black people, regardless of their income.”

Of course, this raises many broad questions about history, equity, and the systemic barriers that have shaped communities for generations. But what about the up-n-coming account executives who came in through your diversity outreach? What do they really need to succeed? Would flexible working arrangements help them with their long commutes? What about specially-tailored financial programming? Do they believe that their bosses, who probably live in upscale white-flight neighborhoods, understand who they are?

For employers, who are increasingly focused on retaining “diverse” employees, the questions this affordability crisis raises should hit close to home.

On Point

The compromise to repeal North Carolina’s bathroom bill raises questions Republican lawmakers and the Democratic governor of North Carolina announced a compromise deal yesterday to repeal the controversial “bathroom bill” that prevents transgender people from using the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. The agreement was reached shortly before a deadline which would have caused the state to lose the option of hosting NCAA basketball championships. But LGBTQ advocates say that the repeal is no compromise, and would not extend protections to transgender people for at least four years. In response, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, tweeted that the deal was a “state-wide prohibition on equality” and “doubles down on discrimination.”NPR

Muslim students are more likely to be bullied by both students and teachers
A new survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) shows that 42% of Muslims with kids in K-12 schools report bullying of their children because of their faith, compared with 23% of Jewish and 20% of Protestant parents. “There’s been a two-year spike in school bullying and harassment, and right now there is a generalized climate of permission to say hateful things to other groups that are deemed as ‘different,'” one professor tells NPR’s Codeswitch. Although many groups have seen an uptick in bullying, Muslim kids are particularly vulnerable because many come from immigrant families.

What’s the story with sports media and the black athlete?
April Reign, recently of #OscarsSoWhite fame, raises important questions about who gets attention and why in the sports world. It’s complicated, she admits. The media rewards spectacle, and when that spectacle is bad behavior or trash talk, the airwaves have plenty of time for it, but the same does not necessarily apply for instances of altruism. That’s why, she says, sportsdad LaVar Ball continues to earn television time to talk about his son Lonzo’s now iffy post-college basketball career, while Colin Kaepernick’s continued and extraordinary philanthropy gets no play. “Unfortunately, it is more media and ratings-friendly to showcase those being outspoken and doing something controversial rather than uplifting,” she says.
The Shadow League

When you’re not black enough to be a good story
Brian Brackeen is a successful entrepreneur who happens to be black. To his mind, that’s the story. But he knows what editors want—a tale of resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. “As dramatically inspirational and true, for some of us, as these versions of the Black road to success are—they just don’t represent my own.” So when Inc. Magazine canceled a planned profile of him, he wondered why. The “editor killed the story—because I wasn’t the ‘… archetypal Black entrepreneur to hang the story around.’” Brackeen calls it a form of racial profiling: He didn’t start from the bottom, so his narrative didn’t count.
Faces of Founders

OpEd: America is failing black girls
It’s more than just the lack of attention to missing black girls and women, it’s what we tell ourselves about the girls that’s part of the problem. “Claims that black girls leave home voluntarily, if not coupled with an examination of all the reasons they might feel they need to leave,” says essayist Morgan Jerkins, “encourage the public to see black girls not as children in need of protection but adults responsible for their own predicament.” Jerkins unpacks the history of disregard that continues to imperil girls and young women of color in this New York Times opinion piece, and she pulls no punches with feminists who do not make the wellbeing of everyone’s children a priority. “So far, nonblack women have been unwilling to get involved in something that doesn’t directly affect them,” she says.
New York Times

The Woke Leader

Refugee kids faced with deportation are lapsing into comas of despair
This is one of the most extraordinary stories I’ve read in ages, and sure to break your heart. The condition is known as uppgivenhetssyndrom, or resignation syndrome, and currently exists only in Sweden. But there are now hundreds of documented cases of refugee kids, mostly 8-15, who have lapsed into coma-like conditions after facing possible deportation from their new homes. “The patients have no underlying physical or neurological disease, but they seem to have lost the will to live,” a doctor tells The New Yorker. All the kids ultimately need feeding tubes to survive. Swedish officials have been struggling to understand what’s been happening for the better part of a decade, with few answers. At the heart of this must-read story is the experience of one boy named Georgi, and the community of caregivers, teachers, and friends who tried to bring him back. Spoiler alert, he recovers, but you’ll never look at the trauma of forced migration—or Sweden, for that matter—the same way again.
The New Yorker

When the amber in the waves of grain is the only color you see
After Minda Honey decided to head to the great outdoors to decompress from the “oppressive whiteness” of her MFA experience, she found the shock of moving from one predominantly white space to another an unwelcome surprise. In an essay that’s both sharply funny and deeply poignant, she learns that one of the most beautiful benefits of American life (Yosemite, to be specific) has largely been preserved for white folks. “Essentially, I’d leapt from the Ivory Tower into a snowbank,” she writes. “I should have known that Black folks weren’t the target audience for all those memes about the cleansing, revitalizing effects of the Great Outdoors.”

An essential new podcast for social impact leaders
My new favorite podcast is Leading Good, a production of two great social entrepreneurs, Hugh Weber and Rod Arnold. The conversations are long, rich and filled with insights for anyone who aspires to deliver on a double bottom line, either in the non-profit world or as a socially-responsible part of a bigger for-profit brand. It’s all great stuff, but I recommend you spend a little time with Shafali Puri in episode 2. She’s a former economic development executive who went on to lead Scientists Without Borders (an open-source innovation platform) and recently completed a really interesting stint at the Nike Foundation. She digs deep into what social leadership really means, what and how to measure, and best of all, how to be a better corporate partner. And she’s very, very funny.


Most of the white Americans I have ever encountered really, you know, had a negro friend or a negro maid or somebody in high school. But they never, you know, or rarely after school was over or whatever, you know, came to my kitchen. You know, we were segregated from the schoolhouse door. Therefore, he doesn’t know – he really does not know – what it was like for me to leave my house, you know, leave the school and go back to Harlem. He doesn’t know how negroes live.
—James Baldwin