Boston Beyond is committed to addressing structural racism and inequity and to shaping a world where justice and equity for the children of our community is a new reality. The inequities in opportunities to learn, develop, and connect to college and careers—though not always visible—have pernicious effects on life outcomes in health, education, and social mobility.
These inequities are insidious and masked by the dated notion that school alone is the great equalizer in opportunity. But we know that children of color have different school experiences than their white peers. We also know that they have far less access to after-school and summer programs and jobs. The lack of historical economic mobility and disparities in transportation options by race in Boston limit learning beyond the classroom for children of color, leading to diminished access to the city’s broad array of enrichment opportunities.
The result is fewer opportunities for children of color to develop the skills and social capital that will benefit them into the future. Despite leading in average school performance, Massachusetts has substantial gaps in achievement, wealth, and life outcomes based on race and zip code. A Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study revealed an enormous disparity in wealth by race: the median net worth in Boston for whites in 2017 was $247,500, compared to just $8 for Black households. Economist Raj Chetty found that “black Americans have substantially lower rates of upward mobility and higher rates of downward mobility than whites.” Even controlling for parental income, Black boys have lower incomes than white boys in adulthood in nearly every Census tract.
Even an ideal school experience cannot fix this imbalance, since children spend just 20% of their waking hours in school. The other 80% of their waking hours is when disadvantage is exacerbated. Consider three measures of this opportunity gap: (1) wealthier families spend seven times as much on enrichment than lower income families, a gap that has nearly doubled over 30 years; (2) higher income children participate in sports, clubs, and lessons at twice the rate of lower income children; and (3) by the sixth grade, children born into poverty will have access to 6,000 fewer hours learning than their middle class peers.
Boston Beyond is committed to closing these gaps in opportunity to ensure that Boston’s children, particularly Black and Latinx youth, have access to a full education, one that includes after-school and summer learning and employment. Boston Beyond is committed to helping improve the quality of these opportunities so that they not only nurture and support young people, but also prepare them for the next steps in their journey.
Learning beyond school should be an expectation for all young people, and not just for those with financial means and connections. We will shine a light on how to mobilize a broad and diverse array of stakeholders to address racial inequity by creating opportunity. We are engaging our staff, board members, and network of partners to do so and are eager to report on our progress along the way.
July 21, 2020