Axios Closer

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February 23, 2024

Friday âś…. In today's edition, we examine the persistent barriers that Black Americans face in the economy, in building wealth and in access to opportunity.

Today's newsletter is 686 words, a 2.5-minute read.

đź”” The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up, but nearly flat.

  • Biggest gainer? Palo Alto Networks (+5.3%), the cybersecurity company, pared back losses after falling over 28% earlier this week on dismal Q2 results.
  • Biggest decliner? Booking Holdings (-10.1%), the online travel company, posted mixed results after yesterday's bell.

1 big thing: Barriers to building wealth

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Black women face a wide range of economic factors that inhibit their ability to build generational wealth, according to a survey out this week from Goldman Sachs' One Million Black Women initiative.

Why it matters: Income inequality has broad personal and societal implications, undermining families, individual dignity, the economy and political cohesion, Nathan writes.

By the numbers: Nearly 31% of Black women who work full time also have a part-time job or side hustle, compared with 24% of all U.S. adults, according to the Goldman survey.

  • Only about one in two have retirement savings, compared with about six in 10 of all adults.
  • 49% own their home, vs. 65% of the overall adult population.
  • 58% are using some of their own money to help their extended family, while 47% of all adults are doing the same.

Student debt is another area of disproportionate impact.

  • 28% of Black women owe more than $50,000 in student debt, compared with 11% of all U.S. adults.

The big picture: "Despite making economic and educational progress, Black women are still facing systemic barriers" towards building wealth for themselves and their families, Goldman policy leader Katelyn Gibert tells Axios.

What we're watching: "Our hope is that highlighting these data will really draw attention for policymakers to create solutions to help address some of these gaps," Gibert adds.

Go deeper

2. Barriers to breaking barriers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Efforts to remove advancement barriers for underrepresented workers within large organizations and companies have become strained over the past year amid a backlash to DEI, Hope writes.

Why it matters: Some of the progress achieved since 2020 in providing access to opportunity — including improvements in hiring and promotion of Black employees — is at risk of being rolled back.

State of play: Major U.S. companies, including Meta, Tesla and Home Depot, cut the size of their DEI teams by 50% or more last year, data from Revelio Labs, a workforce intelligence company shows, per Washington Post.

  • And the number of job postings with DEI in the title or description have declined nearly as fast over the past year as they grew in 2021, per CNN.

Reality check: The true picture of what's happening inside America's companies is more nuanced, however.

  • Business leaders say they're still committed to diversity, Axios' Emily Peck has reported, and a recent study from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation also found that many are doubling down.

Yes, but: Companies, wary of the public backlash, are being quieter about their strategies, while trimming internal groups dedicated to DEI.

3. Bey still fights stereotypes

Beyoncé performs onstage in July 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood

Even Beyoncé — who has more Grammy wins than anyone — still struggles to break barriers and stereotypes in an industry she dominates, Hope writes with Axios Nashville's Adam Tamburin and Ivana Saric.

Catch up quick: She just became the first Black woman to top Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with her single "Texas Hold 'Em."

Why it matters: An Oklahoma country music station initially refused to give the song airtime — sparking renewed debate about diversity in the genre.

  • Rhodes College professor Charles Hughes told the New York Times that the initial decision not to play BeyoncĂ© was emblematic of how "country radio has systematically excluded artists of color."

The big picture: Beyoncé's newest songs point toward her efforts to highlight Black musicians' long, but often overlooked, history within country music.

  • Last year, her set designer for the Renaissance World Tour told British Vogue BeyoncĂ© was "interested in country" and that "she wanted to research its African-American roots."

"Texas Hold 'Em" nods to that tradition. It opens with a charging banjo riff care of the celebrated folk musician Rhiannon Giddens, who has helped draw attention to the African origins of the banjo and the ways African-American musicians shaped the country and folk genres.

4. What else is happening

✂️ Vice is planning to cut "several hundred positions" and stop publishing on its website. (Axios)

🧳 United Airlines raised its checked bag fee by $5 following American, JetBlue and Alaska. (CNBC)

Today's newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and copy edited by Carlos Cunha.

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