OP-ED: We Must Build Pathways Out of Poverty


By Congresswoman Barbara Lee


An article in the recent Post Newspaper, “Oakland is Losing Its Racial, Age and Economic Diversity,” highlights the growing crisis of income inequality in our communities and our country.

Communities of color have always been hard-hit by income inequality because of the systemic and institutional barriers to economic opportunity.


African American unemployment and poverty rates are twice the rate for white Americans. Likewise, the unemployment rate for Latinos is two points higher than the rate for white Americans and nearly two and half times the poverty rate for white Americans.


Furthermore, the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community have a poverty rate nearly a full point higher than their white counterparts.


These barriers to opportunity also exist for women and their families. Across the board, women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar paid to white men. For women of color, the situation is far worse.


African American women are paid just 64 cents for each dollar paid to a white man; for Latinas, its 56 cents to the dollar. Since women of color are more likely to be the sole breadwinner for their families, the wage gap is a massive driver of racial and gender economic inequality.


Stagnant wages, raising income inequality and a decreased supply of affordable housing is forcing longtime residents – many of whom are our neighbors and friends – out of the city they’ve called home for years.


Instead of working to address this injustice, Republicans in Congress have blocked wage increase legislation and have cut vital funding for workforce training and affordable housing.


Recently, I reintroduced the Pathways out of Poverty Act (H.R. 2721) to address these issues. This legislation will create more good-paying American jobs while strengthening proven and evidence-based anti-poverty programs.


By enacting this legislation, Congress would have the opportunity to finally address the root causes of income inequality and provide vital resources to help allow families to stay in the communities they love.


Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional district.


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