Improved Economic Mobility

The Improved Economic Mobility grant focus area is an invitation-only funding opportunity for organizations currently working to sustainably improve the economic position of individuals, families, and communities throughout the St. Louis region, ensuring they are best situated to thrive. The goal of this new funding area is to strengthen existing regional efforts to permanently lift families out of poverty.

Economic mobility refers to people’s ability to improve their economic status over the course of their lifetimes or across generations.

Economist Raj Chetty of Opportunity Insights and Harvard University, has been the country’s leading scholar on economic mobility for over a decade.  He has identified the following key influences on mobility in the US:

Social capital refers to the non-financial resources available to individuals through relationships to people and institutions, such as neighborhoods, families, and professional networks. 

  • Creating more connections across class lines – either through greater economic integration of our institutions and neighborhoods or more opportunities for cross-class social engagement – looks to be the most promising route to improving rates of upward economic mobility in the U.S. 

  • In most of the country, black individuals live in neighborhoods with more concentrated poverty and therefore less exposure to individuals of other classes.  Thus, social connectedness found in institutions, like schools or sports teams, is exponentially important.

Financial capital refers to the financial assets that individuals acquire and leverage to get ahead, such as savings, home equity, and other investments. 

  • Having assets is one of the best predictors of economic mobility.  Home equity is the single most important component of family wealth. 

  • One of the drivers of continuing differences between African Americans and whites in terms of wealth has been the fact that white homes in white neighborhoods tend to increase in value over time, much more so than black homes in mixed or black communities. 

Human capital refers to the skills and attributes acquired by individuals that impact whether or not they are able to take advantage of economic opportunities, such as education and health.

  • Education quality - even as early as Kindergarten - has large effects on kid's lives. When a great teacher arrives, test scores jump up (and stay high); when a great teacher leaves, we see the reverse. High quality elementary teachers generate large long-term gains for students, including higher college attendance rates and larger earnings. 

Neighborhood characteristics: The area in which a child grows up has significant effects on their prospects Counties that have higher rates of upward mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households.

  • Marriage and family structure influence the economic and social well-being of children. Children raised by two parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes. Recent research also suggests marriage and family structure matter not just for individual children, but also for the economic and social well-being of entire communities.

Marillac Mission Fund Response

The target for this focus area is not limited to the populations served through our current focus areas. Awarded grants will be a maximum of $50,000 per year for three years.

MMF has identified three sub-focus areas within Improved Economic Mobility based on a substantial review of existing and emerging research.  Successful grantees in this focus area currently demonstrate experience and expertise in at least one of these sub focus areas.

Sub-Focus Areas:

  • Capital building (human capital, cross-class social capital and/or financial capital)
  • Increased economic mobility for Black men & boys
  • Place-based interventions addressing neighborhood characteristics

Impact of this focus area will be measured in an organization's ability to improve economic mobility for individuals, communities, or both.

If you believe you are a good candidate for this opportunity, please reach out to Emily Stuart.

For addition information about economic mobility, visit these resources.