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Annual Report 2019 | Connecting Communities

Line drawing of community

Shaping Economic Progress, Connection by Connection

By Carl White

Our Community Development team at the St. Louis Fed is known for pinpointing issues facing our District’s constituents and identifying promising solutions to improve the economic well-being of neighborhoods across our seven-state footprint. I value the leadership Julie Stackhouse provided in building a strong community development program and am energized by our mission to promote economic mobility across the Fed's Eighth District.

Understanding the places we serve has been and will continue to be the foundation of our work. Findings from our most recent Community Development Outlook Survey—representing community institutions across the Eighth District—reveal that generational poverty, a lack of affordable housing and a lack of job skills are exerting the greatest negative effects on our low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities and households. 

Our Community Development team uses insights such as these to set priorities in responding to the District’s needs. This may entail expanding our work across specific areas (such as the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region) or deepening our knowledge of specific topics (such as workforce investment opportunities or ways to expand affordable housing).

We are also strengthening our role as a convener by assembling stakeholders to explore critical questions emerging in our communities. Recently, we brought together community leaders to examine:

  • How best to support entrepreneurship among African American women
  • Policies for promoting neighborhood revitalization in distressed areas
  • The challenges and opportunities facing the white working class

This year we will host a virtual symposium on the influence of community development financial institutions and social impact investing over the past quarter century. And the Center for Household Financial Stability (see box below) will invite researchers to consider whether homeownership’s role in building wealth has been oversold.

Our community development program builds on a strong tradition of research and analysis. We have explored how wealth outcomes vary by race, age and education level, and we will delve into how wealth outcomes differ by gender later this year. We are working to understand how the flow of government, private and philanthropic capital is impacting some of the nation’s most distressed communities. Our team also is examining the market for and use of low-cost transaction accounts at financial institutions for previously unbanked and underbanked individuals as part of the Bank On National Data Hub.

Fostering partnerships between community-based organizations and funders interested in investing in LMI and underserved communities has been a hallmark of our community development program. We have laid the groundwork for financial institutions to connect with Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)-eligible projects prescreened by the St. Louis Fed through our Investment Connection program. We also continue to assist our Consumer Affairs examination staff by sharing our knowledge of communities across the Eighth District to assist in their evaluations of District banks’ CRA performance.

Looking ahead, our Community Development team will continue to identify and broker what works to help move our communities forward, serving as a bridge for a vast and diverse array of stakeholders. I look forward to leading and supporting these efforts and am eager to see how our next chapter of impacting communities across the Eighth District unfolds.

Carl White is senior vice president of Supervision, Credit, Community Development and Learning Innovation. Prior to his current role, which includes serving as a member of the Bank's Management Committee, he focused for 32 years on bank safety and soundness supervision.
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