At a glance
- Economic mobility is decreasing in the United States, and even a college education does not guarantee financial stability.
- We envision an economic system that works for everyone and where no one is unfairly left behind.
- We focus on the 47 million people in the U.S. ages 16 to 64 whose annual incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level, which translates to $27,180 for an individual and $55,500 for a family of four as of 2022.
- We work with local and state governments and policymakers, small and medium-sized businesses, community and advocacy organizations, funders, and researchers to help our focus population achieve long-term economic security.
We envision an economic system that works for everyone—a system where no one is unfairly left behind. Our Economic Mobility and Opportunity team works with local and state governments and policymakers, small and medium-sized businesses, community and advocacy organizations, funders, and researchers to help increase long-term economic security for people earning low incomes. Our target population is the 47 million people ages 16 to 64 whose annual incomes are below 200% of the federal poverty level, which translates to $27,180 for an individual and $55,500 for a family of four as of 2022. Many of our partners work directly to support these individuals and connect them to opportunities and resources.
Visit our U.S. Program website
Our U.S. Program works to ensure that everyone in the United States can learn, grow, and get ahead regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or family income.
Areas of focus
We work to address the immediate needs of our focus population by supporting the creation and use of tools that help individuals and families access safety net benefits and tax credits. We also support efforts to connect employers with skilled workers and help workers navigate the job market, and we fund research into how to support our focus population in the financial, professional, and other aspects of their lives.
One example is our partnership with Code for America to create easy-to-use digital tools that transform the delivery of public safety net benefits and tax credits, allowing people to get the food and cash assistance, child tax credits, and earned income tax credits they are eligible to receive. An estimated $60 billion in safety net benefits go unclaimed each year by those who are eligible for them.
We provide tools, insights, and resources to local governments, businesses, and organizations to help them create more opportunities for people living in poverty to achieve economic success. For example, we help owners of small and medium-sized businesses (which employ more than 66% of our focus population) adopt employment practices that improve workers’ career and economic trajectories while helping their own businesses grow. We also develop and share new research and best practices that advance short- and long-term economic stability for low-wage workers and help ensure that they are treated with dignity.
One project we support is the Opportunity Atlas, an online tool designed for policymakers and local leaders that uses anonymized data to follow 20 million Americans from childhood to their mid-30s, tracing the roots of their economic mobility back to the neighborhoods where they grew up. This information helps decision-makers at all levels understand where opportunity exists and which factors contribute to affluence or poverty.
Economic mobility is too big a challenge for one organization alone to solve. We collaborate with government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, funders, and others to increase the flow of capital, facilitate learning, and advance shared goals in a way that builds momentum around efforts in our two other focus areas.
One example is our investment in creating WorkRise, a national platform that funds research and data collection on the labor market and shares promising insights, practices, and policies that can help increase economic opportunity for low-income workers.
Why focus on economic mobility and opportunity?
Economic mobility is decreasing in the United States. Among people born in the U.S. in 1940, 90% went on to earn more than their parents did. For those born in the 1980s, that figure has dropped to 50%.
We know that education beyond high school provides more opportunities to climb the economic ladder, and we have spent years investing in and working to improve our U.S. education system, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education. But education alone is not enough to guarantee financial stability. Millions of people with college degrees still live below the poverty line.
Bureaucratic processes create further obstacles, by making it difficult for people to access the safety net benefits and tax credits they are eligible to receive. Those benefits could help them secure a foothold in an ever-changing economy—one in which events such as the COVID-19 pandemic can set people back through no fault of their own. The data show that women and people of color, particularly Black and Latino people, often face additional barriers to economic security due to sexism and racism.
We believe that by working across sectors, we can improve our economic system and help low-income people achieve short- and long-term economic stability, decide the direction of their own lives, and have a valued place within their communities.