Exploring Approaches to Increase Economic Opportunity for Young Men of Color: A 10-Year Review

by Christin Durham; Madeline Brown; Natalie Spievack; Pamela Loprest

Feb 27, 2020

The past decade has brought significant developments in efforts to close equity gaps for young men of color—but additional progress must be made. This report tracks 10 years of progress on increasing economic opportunity for young men of color. It highlights the voices of young men and lifts up seven new and promising approaches: changing narratives, intervening early, empowering young men of color to lead, promoting mental health and well-being, preparing for higher education and careers, building wealth, tailoring interventions to the local context. It also presents recent federal, state, and local policy reforms that show promise for increasing economic opportunity by dismantling structural barriers faced by young men of color. Written for practitioners, policymakers, philanthropy, and advocates, the report concludes with opportunities for action for all audiences.

  • Economic opportunity consists of: the existence of chances to achieve positive economic outcomes, including having access to high-quality education and training programs and good jobs; the ability to act on those chances, including having access to the resources, social supports, and equitable treatment needed to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Men of color’s economic opportunities have been hampered by centuries of systematic racism.
  • Seven promising approaches for increasing economic opportunity for young men of color have emerged or strengthened in the past 10 years. Those include: Changing narratives; Intervening early; Empowering young men of color to lead; Promoting mental health and well-being; Preparing for higher education and careers; Building wealth; Tailoring interventions to the local context.
  • Policy changes on the Federal, state and local level addressing discriminatory policies and practices in the criminal legal system, school discipline disproportionality, employment discrimination against people with criminal records, inequitable access to high-quality health care, and the distribution of opportunity across neighborhoods, have also made strides in improving economic opportunity for young men of color.
  • Future efforts to improve economic opportunities for young men of color must dismantle structural inequities, account for diverse strengths and needs, share results and best practices, invest in targeted programs and monitor progress, and recognize young men of color as experts and leaders in driving solutions. As we move into the 2020s, we must continue to build on progress made to ensure that young men of color can thrive and prosper.