The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a pledge of $158 million over four years in support of efforts to increase economic mobility and opportunity across the United States.
Announced at an event sponsored by the US Partnership on Mobility From Poverty, the commitment will support research, data collection, and community initiatives aimed at helping more Americans position themselves to climb the economic ladder. The initiative is based on two years of study by the partnership, which was launched in 2016 with a $3.7 million Gates Foundation grant to the Urban Institute in collaboration with academics, practitioners, and representatives from philanthropy, the private sector, and the faith community.
The new funding will be targeted to areas where it can be most effective, including the collection and sharing of data on factors that contribute to poverty and upward mobility; research on the changing jobs landscape; and efforts to enhance public understanding of poverty and economic mobility. The foundation also will support efforts to improve coordination among social service groups working to address economic disparities in areas such as housing, jobs, and health and will advocate for ways to improve the status of people whose service-sector jobs offer little economic security or opportunity for advancement.
The vision, Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann told reporters ahead of the announcement, is to ensure that there are more people and groups "at all levels committed to increasing mobility from poverty over the next decade. We want to invest in promising approaches to help workers who are in low-mobility jobs," she added. "We also want to be able to increase the capacity of local actors, particularly governments, so that they can accurately diagnose and make data-driven decisions in their own communities that can drive change and mobility."
During the announcement on Thursday, Desmond-Hellmann emphasized the need to invest in data and strengthen the ecosystem of organizations working to address poverty and economic mobility. "We want to look at all the wonderful things that government, business...foundations, community organizations...are already doing and use our money thoughtfully to create a better environment for everybody to thrive," she said. "We're going to make investments in data that is there for decision makers...because when you're in Buffalo or New York or Detroit, you can't take risk. You can't measure outcomes and be nimble and adjust if you don't have good data on what others are doing and how you can generate results and adjust and not keep doing things the same way."
(Photo credit: US Partnership on Mobility From Poverty)