United States

What inequality looks like

The American experiment is rooted in the ideals of equal justice and opportunity for all. At its best, the country has redressed historical injustices while incorporating newcomers into a dynamic and innovative society, promoting shared prosperity, and serving as a model and beacon for other nations. But current levels of inequality—the highest among advanced economies—threaten to undermine that promise and undercut economic growth.

Over the past generation, political, social, and economic systems too often have worked on behalf of the most privileged, failing to be responsive and inclusive. The notion of a strong social contract between people and their government, workers and their employers, and society and its youth has eroded significantly—with regressive fiscal and social policies placing higher burdens on the poor and failing to promote the common good. Meanwhile, an extremely high incarceration rate, and the barriers, often lifelong, to civic and economic participation for those who enter the criminal justice system, have powerful and compounding effects—imposing severe costs on families, communities, and taxpayers across the country.

This extreme inequality is unsustainable, and it is inconsistent with American values. It is not, however, inevitable.

Challenging inequity to advance justice

As we come to grips with the ways that inequality harms us all, we are in a period when the demographic makeup of the United States is rapidly changing. In the coming decades, no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority. While this has amplified long-standing racial anxieties, it has also bolstered hopes for broader inclusion at a time when the economy is demanding new skills, business models, and supports for workers and families. Huge advances in technology are further shaping and fueling change.

These trends give the nation an unprecedented opportunity to challenge inequality in new ways. We need to strengthen education and other systems that act as equalizing institutions—but also reform systems that are perpetuating inequality. By helping to build and reinforce positive public narratives, we can contribute to making inclusion and fairness essential ingredients of the evolving national story. When appropriate, we can focus our efforts in places where we are more likely to generate critical momentum, influence policy and the national conversation, and demonstrate replicable models for change.

By supporting our partners in the field, we will help to build a social justice infrastructure that is networked, collaborative, and durable. A core element of this is strengthening the leadership of young people, women, immigrants, and people of color as contributors to problem solving. But our approach will also include supporting movements that are connecting and engaging people across issues and identities—transcending differences in race, gender, political party, class, or citizenship to better reflect the shared hopes and realities of a changing society. Finally, we are in a position to help reimagine the practice of philanthropy, ensuring that our sector adapts to the needs of a changing nation.

Working with a broad array of partners, we can contribute to turning the tide on inequality—and help build a stronger and more inclusive America.

Thematic areas in this region
  • Governments do not become responsive on their own. We support efforts to make the rules and systems that govern participation more fair and inclusive, to make taxes and budgets more open and fair, and to help people engage with government to solve problems.

  • Artists of all kinds, journalists, filmmakers, and other storytellers are challenging traditional notions of identity and asserting their own narratives, often through new forms of creative expression and communication. We are exploring how cultural narratives affect and shape social movements and how media, culture, and the arts can contribute to a fairer and more just society.

  • Empowered communities can harness urban development and natural resources to generate shared long-term prosperity, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and reduce disparities. Our efforts are focused on urbanization and land markets, equitable access to infrastructure and services, natural resource governance, and the links between equity and environmental sustainability.

  • To enhance public understanding of inequality based on gender, race, or ethnicity, our work supports new kinds of organizing, networks, collaboration, and strategies that include and go beyond the gains made through legal and policy advocacy. We engage groups that are testing new strategies and alliances and that are expanding tactics beyond shifting rules to advancing cultural change.

  • We believe that government, business, and civil society share responsibility for creating inclusive economies. We focus on generating consensus and momentum about the importance of inclusion to the state of the overall economy, promoting research on economic inequality and models of inclusive growth, and advancing the theory and practice of “high road” business.

  • For today’s digital transformation to be a positive one, all people need ubiquitous and inexpensive access to the Internet. We support efforts to advocate for expanded access to the Internet and to strengthen the legal, regulatory, and technical standards and public protections that govern the digital space.

  • Supporting young people is an investment in the common good. By expanding the opportunities available to young people and tackling the disparities that disproportionately shape the lives of excluded youth, we take aim at inequalities that reproduce across generations.

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Contact
Ford Foundation
320 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
USA

Grantmakers in United States

Director, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Senior Advisor, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Director, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Technology Program Officer, Internet Freedom
New York, USA
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Program Associate, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Program Officer, Philanthropy
New York, USA
Andrew, Catauro, New York. 2015. Photo credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.
Andrew Catauro
Manager, JustFilms
New York, USA
Program Officer, Internet Freedom
New York, USA
Director, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Internet Freedom
New York, USA
Program Officer, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Program Officer, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Senior Advisor
New York, USA
Senior Manager
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Program Associate, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Director
New York, USA
Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Program Associate, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Kirsten, Levingston, New York 2014-2015. Photo Credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.
Kirsten D. Levingston
Former Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Senior Grants Manager
New York, USA
Senior Program Investment Officer, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Director, Civil and Human Rights
New York, USA
Senior Grants Manager
New York, USA
Grants Officer, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Program Officer, Internet Freedom
New York, USA
Director, JustFilms
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Program Associate, Strategy and Learning
New York, USA
Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression
New York, USA
Program Associate, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Director, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Program Officer, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Lourdes, Rivera, New York 2014-2015. Photo Credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.
Lourdes A. Rivera
Former Senior Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Jean, Ross, New York 2014-2015. Photo Credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.
Jean Ross
Former Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
New York, USA
Grants Manager, Equitable Development
New York, USA
Director, Internet Freedom
New York, USA
Senior Program Officer, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Senior Financial Analyst, Inclusive Economies
New York, USA
Program Officer, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice
New York, USA
Program Officer, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA
Program Officer, Youth Opportunity and Learning
New York, USA

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Darren, Walker, New York 2014-2015. Photo Credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.

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