Widening wealth inequality is the defining challenge of our time. Studies of rampant wealth inequality have associated it with slowing growth, declining macroeconomic fundamentals, eroded social cohesion and increased political polarization. The uncertainty surrounding geopolitical and socioeconomic futures in countries across the globe has made an understanding of systemic inequality and its potential effects on investments and the economy all the more relevant.
When one considers the unique interaction of race and wealth in the U.S., the economic risk becomes even more salient. Increasingly, investors have begun to understand the extent to which socioeconomic inequalities are informed by racial stratification in virtually every sector of society. The racial disparities in homeownership, workplace advancement, health, and returns to education illustrate that race is a key driving factor of social and economic outcomes. By 2032, the majority of the working class and labor force will be people of color. As demographic trends continue along this path, race may increasingly drive the socioeconomic health of the average American family. In an economy where consumer spending typically accounts for 80% of GDP growth, racial wealth inequality could significantly impact future spending habits, fiscal policy and social stability. Economic projections typically underestimate the risk this trend poses to society.
Closing the racial wealth gap has the potential to add over a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy, adding to consumer spending and tax revenues as the nation becomes increasingly diverse. Racial equity investing both mitigates systemic risks in the economy and provides a financial return to investors.
Racial equity investing also offers higher education leaders an opportunity to go beyond educating students of color, to investing in them, their futures, their communities, and a societal system that is more equitable. A clear commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion from Trustees, Boards and Presidents, across all sectors of the university including endowment management will lead to institutional resilience and relevance, as these issues directly affecting the lives of the majority of high school aged students today will affect the endowment performance and the business model of higher ed.
In light of the first Black History and International Women’s Month of the decade earlier this year and the current national reckoning with racial injustice, this Primer is intended to be a catalyst for conversation and action on racial equity for fiduciaries of university endowments who are looking to learn more about the current state of racial inequity in the U.S. as it relates to the long-term sustainability of the economy; the unique, underappreciated opportunity available to college and university endowments in racial equity investing; and the variety of tools, products, partners and best practices available. University fiduciaries can begin to address racial equity in their roles by taking the actions below:
Development of this primer was a collective effort of members of the Intentional Endowments Network, Jochebed Bogunjoko, and others in the field. The following people played critical roles in the research, writing, and review of this document:
Jochebed Bogunjoko, Founder & CEO, J Aduke Consulting
Sam Austin, Partner, NEPC
Frank Bello, Chief Investment Officer, Howard University
Essma Bengabsia, Senior Associate, Glenmede
Meredith Benton, Principal, Whistle Stop Capital
Keith Beverly, Founder, Grid 202 Partners
Valentina Dingle, Principal, Prime Buchholz
Alice DonnaSelva, Managing Director, IEN
Caroline Greer, Managing Director, Commonfund
Keon Holmes, Managing Director, Cambridge Associates
Kristin Hull, Founder, CEO, Nia Impact Capital
Kaede Kawauchi, Program Manager, IEN
Tamara Larsen, Executive Director, PWP Agility
Angela Matheny, Head of Diverse Manager Equity, Colonial Consulting
Kerin K. McCauley, Senior Associate Director, NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights
Tiffany McGhee, CEO & Co-CIO, Momentum Advisors
Dorien Nuñez, Director of Research, OMNI Research
Nadia M. Quarles, Assistant Vice President for Business Diversity, Office of Business Diversity, The University of Chicago
Jasmine Richards, Head of Diverse Manager Research, Cambridge Associates
Anthony Rust, Trustee, Warren Wilson College
Randy Strickland, Director, Cornerstone Capital Group
George Suttles, Director of Research, Commonfund Institute
Brian Swain, Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Howard University
Geraldine Watson, Executive Vice President for Finance and Operations, Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Justin Wilson, Director, Diverse Asset Managers Initiative
Julianne Zimmerman, Managing Director, Reinventure Capital
Sponsors of this report: