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Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group Announce Ten U.S. Cities to Join New Initiative to Increase Economic Mobility

Cities Will Use Data to Identify Barriers to Economic Opportunity for Residents, Test Promising Strategies, and Share What They Learn with Other Communities

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group announced today the ten American cities that will participate in a new national initiative to identify, pilot, and measure the success of interventions to accelerate economic mobility for their residents. The U.S. cities embarking on this project are: Albuquerque, NM; Cincinnati, OH; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Lansing, MI; New Orleans, LA; Newark, NJ; Racine, WI; Rochester, NY; and Tulsa, OK.

The defining characteristic of the American Dream is upward mobility, but new data from Opportunity Insights shows that the current generation’s chances of earning more than their parents are declining. In many communities, young people and families face significant barriers to climbing the economic ladder based on the neighborhoods in which they live.

The new initiative, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group, seeks to respond to the strong demand among local leaders for new, more effective interventions to address rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. In Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 American Mayors Survey – the largest comprehensive public-opinion survey of mayors and city managers – one of their top concerns was the challenge of providing more and better economic opportunities for all residents.

“Across the country, mayors are at the forefront of efforts to increase economic opportunity for their residents,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Through this new partnership, these ten cities will have the chance to test innovative ideas, collaborate with other cities facing similar challenges, and share what they have learned with communities nationwide.”

The cities were selected through a competitive process that looked at their commitment to addressing economic mobility, willingness to use data and evidence to accelerate their progress, and ability to dedicate a team to accomplish the initiative’s goals. The initiative is supported by a $12 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group that was announced last fall. Over the next 18 months, each city will develop, pilot, and measure the early impacts of a specific intervention designed to help improve residents’ long-term economic mobility. Cities in the cohort will also work closely with one another to share lessons and experiences to further advance the work and build a model for future collaboration among cities on the topic.

The projects that each city will pursue to address economic mobility are:

  • Albuquerque will improve the financial health and literacy of local youth by increasing their access to bank accounts and financial empowerment services.
  • Cincinnati will engage employers to connect low-income workers with services that help them succeed professionally.
  • Dayton will increase parental engagement with high-quality early childhood education through innovative outreach methods.
  • Detroit will help connect low-income residents in affordable housing units to programs and services that increase their economic opportunities and likelihood of achieving housing stability.
  • Lansing will increase residents’ access to a continuum of financial empowerment tools.
  • New Orleans will engage youth in services that prepare them for successful careers.
  • Newark will focus on reducing eviction rates amid rising housing costs to help ensure that long-term residents share in the benefits of local economic growth.
  • Racine will help more adults obtain a high school equivalency diploma, a prerequisite for many local high-mobility jobs.
  • Rochester will develop a matched savings program for income-eligible families to help them weather financial shocks, build wealth, and create economic stability.
  • Tulsa will help youth who are not currently in work or school get the education and training they need for high-quality jobs in the community.

“With their enthusiasm to test out a diverse set of interventions and closely track the results, these pioneer cities will not only expand opportunity for their own residents, they will provide valuable insights to communities across the country,” said Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Through collaboration with residents, community organizations, and county partners – and with real-time data monitoring to determine what works – these cities can help scale and spread effective strategies for improving economic opportunity in the United States,” said Jeff Edmondson, Executive Director of Community Mobilization at Ballmer Group.

The 10 cities have already begun working with a team of advisors from Results for America and the Behavioral Insights Team, both partners in What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities confront urgent challenges through data- and evidence-based decision-making. The cities will deepen their data skills and strengthen their ability to deliver results to residents with the help of experts from other What Works Cities partners, including Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab and the Sunlight Foundation.

Additionally, Opportunity Insights at Harvard University is helping the cities draw insights regarding economic mobility in their communities using data from the Opportunity Atlas, an interactive resource developed in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau.


About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 510 cities and 129 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTube and Twitter.

About Ballmer Group:
Ballmer Group works to improve economic mobility for children and families in the United States who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. We believe that building pathways to opportunity requires broad, systemic change. We invest in many stages of a child’s life by supporting strong community partnerships among public, private, and nonprofit organizations that use data to more effectively serve families. Ballmer Group was co-founded by philanthropist and civic activist Connie Ballmer and her husband Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, founder of USAFacts, and chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers. Learn more at and on Twitter @BallmerGroup.

About Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.