Convening for Opportunity

Harvard Economist Dr. Raj Chetty Delivers “Convening for Opportunity” Keynote on Confronting Economic Disparities in Colorado   


Dr. Chetty Spoke with Business Leaders on Inequalities that Exist in Workforce, Small Business Ownership and Housing Data During a Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America and Prosper CO Virtual Event

DENVER (March 3, 2021) – The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America and Prosper CO convened local business leaders for a discussion on economic disparities in Colorado. Raj Chetty, Ph.D., William A. Ackman professor of public economics at Harvard University, delivered a presentation on insights the business community can gather from his research to increase equity and opportunity for their employees. Ebony Thomas, senior vice president of racial equality for Bank of America, Raju Patel, Denver market president for Bank of America, and Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, also spoke at the event.

Today’s event, “Convening for Opportunity: Confronting Economic Disparities” coincided with the release of Prosper CO’s Top 10, a list of action items and steps employers and employees can take to increase opportunity within their organizations. Prosper CO is an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber, launched in 2019 that brings together the public, private and nonprofit sectors to identify, understand and eliminate the barriers to economic opportunity in Colorado, particularly for Black, Latinx and female Coloradans.

The Prosper CO Leadership Council unites business leaders across industries to tackle three main areas of work: 1) Move Black and Latinx residents and women into higher paying jobs and create more of those jobs. 2) Ensure more people can start and grow businesses and remove the barriers to small business ownership for women and people of color. 3) Address the housing affordability challenge for the region by placing homeownership within reach again, allowing more families to begin to build wealth.

“Our business community continues to show its commitment to build a more inclusive economy,” said Brough. “Dr. Chetty’s data only further reinforced the strategies developed by Prosper CO to address those disparities. We were thrilled that so many business leaders joined us today to hear the keynote address and discuss what every employer can do today to create an economy that works for everyone.”

Dr. Chetty educated business leaders on the realities of inequality in Denver through his work at Opportunity Insights. Key takeaways included:

  • Denver is an extremely racially segregated city. The greatest divide is between white and Black communities, which almost never overlap.
  • Neighborhoods that have the best outcomes for low-income Black children are those that are located near or overlap with neighborhoods that have the best outcomes for white children.
  • Across the nation, white men born into high-income families are likely to remain in the upper-middle class. For Black men born into high-income families are just as likely to end up in the lower class as they are to stay at the top.
  • In Colorado, job growth is not sufficient to guarantee upward mobility.

“The roots of economic opportunity are hyper-local,” said Dr. Chetty. “That perspective shows us what public policy steps we can take to improve economic outcomes by reducing segregation, focusing on place-based investing and improving higher education.”

Business leaders were able to view the hard data showing the inequalities that persist today – from racially segregated neighborhoods to vastly different rates of small business ownership based on race – and then broke into breakout groups designed to foster discussion on strategies to improve equity in jobs, small business ownership and housing based on Prosper CO’s Top 10. Participants shared stories of their own experience, steps their organizations are taking and ways to begin implementing strategies outlined by Prosper CO with the insight of Dr. Chetty’s research.

“Today’s event demonstrates the power of the business community – across sectors, cities and industries – working together to foster change,” remarked Thomas. “By recognizing the needs in the communities we serve, we can collectively work to eliminate barriers, address inequities and take action to make a difference starting today.”

Prosper CO is committed to devising strategies that will help more Coloradans access economic opportunity in this state and encourage employers to step up and lead the charge toward a more prosperous Colorado.