Dr. David J. Pate, Jr | Hidden Truths Podcast, Episode 2

David Pate, an Associate Professor at the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is an expert on low-income Black men, fatherhood, and child support debt. David researches the challenges Black men face in the social welfare system and how they make ends meet.

Most recently, Pate is examining the impact of  “toxic stress” on Black men. This stress results from early traumatic experiences or life changing events that have a lasting, negative impact throughout adulthood. “You’re walking around with your past childhood experiences that never got attended to as an adult,” explains Pate.

As part of his research, Pate interviewed 200 Black men and examined their physical and mental health, access to health care, adverse childhood experiences, and other factors. After the interviews were conducted, he analyzed their profiles in respect to ten conventional components of adverse childhood experiences that contribute to toxic stress; five components relate to issues of child abuse and neglect and five pertain to family dysfunction.  

“If a man has four or more components present, they are more at risk for incarceration, low employment, and often times have a harder time maintaining a stable life. We are also seeing a direct correlation between these ten components and stress when it comes to paying child support.”

Based on this research, Pate describes how existing public policies do not address the root challenges that these men face – the inequalities they were born into, their often traumatic experiences as children and teens, and the discrimination, oppression, and other challenges that compound these factors and greatly hinder their social and economic well-being as adults.

For example, David explained how “our current social welfare policies only support the primary caretaker of the child, which makes it difficult for the father to really support their child.”

Many of the men that were interviewed shared their desire to financially support their families and be the breadwinner. However, most are making less than $12,000 and cannot pay the monthly or weekly child support payments. The resulting fines, debt, and other sanctions they face for their inability to pay only exacerbate their problems, without actually helping the mother and child. “Often times the mother will be needed to support not only their child, but the father of her children too. Punishing the father doesn’t help the family, mother of their children, or generations to come.”

Pate also shared a story that highlights the discrimination within our current social welfare system and what he referred to as “state sanctioned violence” that can further trigger toxic stress:

“A Black man wanted to accompany the mother of his unborn child to her prenatal visit. However, due to the policies that are in currently in place, the mother’s transportation to the appointment was paid for, but not the father’s. Thus, the father had to walk to the prenatal visit… What message are we sending to fathers who are poor? We want you involved with your child, but we’re not going to support you? This doesn’t make rational sense.”

Currently, in the U.S., Black males face a disproportionately high unemployment rate. “We as a country haven’t done really well to provide a safety net for Black men and women,” explained Pate. “The U.S. tells men ‘Go out and get a job.’ But in reality, when these men do go and look for jobs in their community, they may have to compete with over 400 other men looking for that same job.”

In considering ways to address these issues, Pate stressed the need for greater investment in education, more research and understanding of how public policies interact and affect individuals and communities, and, on a fundamental level, greater compassion and appreciation of the human struggle at the root of these challenges.

“I think often we don’t give a human side to Black men who are particularly poor, who are experiencing challenges with the criminal justice system as well as with their employment opportunities, and who may be seen as someone who is just being lazy, and not working hard, and having [lots of] children, which is not the case for the majority of these men,” explained Pate. “These men start out in a space that is less than a lot of people, and until we start recognizing the humanity of all human beings, and particularly Black males…things aren’t going to change.”

As he looks to shine more light on these issues, Pate is excited to begin two upcoming research studies about violence prevention in the city of Milwaukee and the levels of toxic stress in Black men when they are given employment opportunities and benefits.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. David Pate and his research, view his recent publications below and his faculty profile at the University of Milwaukee.

Adverse Childhood Experiences, Health, and Employment: A Study of Men Seeking Job Services

Journal: Child Abuse & Neglect

November 2016, Volume 61, pp 23-34

The Color of Debt: An Examination of Social Networks, Sanctions, and Child Support Enforcement Policy

Journal: Race and Social Problems

March 2016, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 116–135


Dr. David J. Pate, Jr. is also the founder and operations manager for the Center for Family Policy and Practice, is a member of the National Advisory Board for the Responsible Father Research Network, and is an Affiliated Associate Professor of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

#ThisIsNotNormal, it really isn’t and must be reversed

by Jhumpa Bhattacharya | January 25, 2016 – East Bay Times

This is not normal, this is not normal, #ThisIsNotNormal. I can’t even count the number of times I have read or heard this phrase since Nov. 8.

For too many of us, the election of Donald Trump and the ensuing barrage of appalling tweets, press conferences, prospective policy decisions and political appointments feel like direct attacks on our safety and who we are.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Research Brief Series: Women, Race & Wealth, Volume 1

Women, Race and Wealth is the first in a series of briefs that summarize patterns of household wealth among black and white women by college education, family structure and age using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Researchers from Duke University and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development analyzed data on assets such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles. Debts included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt.

Click here to view and download Women, Race and Wealth, Volume 1.

Jahmil Lacey | Hidden Truths Podcast, Episode 1

Jahmil Lacey, a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, is working to address health disparities among African American men in underserved locations around the Bay Area. A team of physicians, researchers, public health advocates, and community organizations have all come together to launch a new health initiative that cares for people, not profits.

Lacey’s effort is called TRAPMedicine, which leverages the cultural capital of barbershops as an upstream strategy for addressing disparities in chronic disease and mental health among African American men and boys. Culture and trust are the two pillars of this initiative and what we need to focus on to achieve equity,” says Lacey. From his previous experiences managing school-based health centers and running high school youth programs, he has learned that in order to see sustainable improvements the community must have trust in your understanding of their culture and, most importantly, in you.

Understanding that men and their barber have a deep bond, Lacey plans to launch this initiative in barber shops across the Bay Area. If a Black man trusts you with his hair line, they will trust you with their health,” chuckles Lacey. “I’ve always found [the barber shop] to be a unique, safe space for men to talk about everything, from the Warriors to safe sex.  

TRAPMedicine was designed to close the gap between the patient and the health care provider, with the barber acting as a convenor. We’re going to focus on screening for conditions that we know are prevalent among black men – diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and mental health. Lacey hopes to provide not only upfront care and screenings but, most importantly, follow-up care and information to those who need it most. Lacey believes that this is where you can lose trust – by not offering follow-up appointments or not providing more information later on to those in need.”

On December 31, 2016, TRAPMedicine will officially launch the pilot program at Legends Barber Shop in East Oakland. On this day, members of the community can receive free health screenings from 10am to 4pm. The barber shop will also offer free haircuts for people who participate in the screenings. Food will be provided.

The group plans to provide various support groups to Bay Area barber shops to further engage community members in nonjudgmental conversations. People are more likely to be influenced by their peers than by a doctor,” explains Lacey. By operating outside the walls of a hospital, TRAPMedicine will encourage men of color to build a community around health.

In these ways, Lacey’s initiative seeks to not only address health disparities, but the underlying economic inequities that give rise to them. It’s stressful to be poor. This disease creates disease,” says Lacey. “Broadly speaking, I hope we can create and develop safe spaces for men to support each other, to share information about employment, mental health, manhood, and to ultimately increase health literacy in these communities.”

TRAPMedicine is looking for volunteers who have experience in the medical field or public health research, and who have experience working with people of color. If you would like to learn more or get involved, email Jahmil Lacey at jahmil.lacey@gmail.com or trapmedicine@gmail.com. To stay-up-to-date about this initiative, you can follow TRAPMedicine on Facebook and Instagram.

To listen to our full conversation, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Insight Center podcast on iTunes.


Jahmil Lacey is a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco; the manager of a housing facility for young adults with chronic mental health issues; and an Insight Center for Community Economic Development Board member.

Elinam “Eli” Dellor | In Her Own Voice

Elinam “Eli” Dellor comes from a family of strong, Black women who pushed through social and geographic boundaries to accomplish the extraordinary. Her grandmother, Irene Akosua Dei, overcame significant adversity as a young orphan in Ghana, where she survived through subsistence work and taught herself how to read and write before going on to successfully raise eight children of her own, including Eli’s mother, Pat.

Pat continued Irene’s legacy by becoming one of the first in her family to attend college and practice sports medicine in Ghana – a field where women were scarce. Facing limits to what she could accomplish in Ghana, she made the difficult choice to move her family to the U.S. in search of greater opportunity and a better life for her children. “My parents are immigrants and they came here for a very specific reason – to ensure that we don’t struggle as much as they had to struggle,” Eli explains.

Today, Eli stands on the shoulders of her mother and grandmother as a bright and ambitious Black woman and first-generation immigrant who has a Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Without a doubt, Irene’s spirit and determination flows through her. “My grandma was my first teacher, my first mentor,” Eli says. “She did everything that was out of the ordinary for her time. Being a Black woman with a Ph.D., I am also out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pleasure in bucking trends, surprising people.”

The road to Eli’s accomplishment was not an easy one. Eli immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana at the tender age of 11 and has faced racism and bias throughout her life.

One of her first experiences with racial prejudice came in the 10th grade, when she sought guidance from her school counselor on taking the PSAT to prepare for college. “The counselor took one look at me and said, ‘Don’t bother. I think you should focus on looking at community colleges. No need to take the PSAT.’” Eli was an honor roll student enrolled in AP classes, so her counselor’s reaction left her feeling surprised, confused, and hurt. It was only after Eli found the courage to follow up with her counselor that he took the time to actually look at her records and see her high academic achievement. “It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Eli recalls. “He looked at me and just saw a Black girl, nothing more. I had to force him to see past that, to see me.”

This was her first introduction to racism at a systemic level, and, unfortunately, it would not be her last. Throughout her academic career, Eli saw how her race, gender, and immigration history positioned her to have to work harder, face bigger obstacles, and be at a disadvantage in comparison to her white peers.  

One of the major challenges Eli now faces as a recent post-doctoral graduate is grappling with the immense debt she has acquired in taking on student loans since the start of her undergraduate work. Eli enrolled in work study programs and got whatever scholarships she could, but her family’s means were limited and student loans were a must. “It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go to college,” says Eli. “My parents made it very clear that even if we needed to take out loans, we would do whatever it took to ensure I was educated.”

Eli’s decision to continue to graduate school was not an easy one, as she worried about taking on more debt, but she felt that it was absolutely necessary to advance her career. “I was working at the Alliance for Children’s Rights on the behalf of foster youth and saw that without an advanced degree, I would be stuck in lower-level positions, and I wouldn’t be able to ever be in charge of my own work.” She wanted to continue her work with at-risk populations and also had a dream to pursue public health work in Ghana. A Master’s in Public Health (MPH) seemed like the perfect fit.  

While in the MPH program, Eli saw white male privilege play out to its fullest. In a field of mostly women, there were only two men in her cohort who were white, and they received a disproportionate amount of financial support and teaching opportunities despite having an undistinguished reputation among peers. “It was so frustrating to all of the women… As women, we can’t afford to be mediocre. We have to work harder to get noticed all the time.”

When Eli received her MPH in 2008, the recession was in full effect. Facing a devastated job market, she, like many of her peers, decided to work toward a Ph.D., which would enable her to follow her dream of becoming a principal researcher.

As a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, Eli learned that the National Institute of Health (NIH) offered a fellowship to those who would be willing to study the incorporation of psychology and biology into Public Health issues. Seeing an opportunity to earn financial support for her education, she came up with a proposal for the fellowship, applied, and was accepted. With this fellowship, Eli changed her career path from researching reproductive health in Ghana to focusing on the biological effect of childhood trauma on the adult body.

Eli has mixed emotions about the fellowship. She is thankful, of course, for the opportunity and support, and she is very proud of the work she accomplished. However, she also considers how the fellowship changed the trajectory of her career and forced her to make a hard choice in letting go of her original passion – something she has seen happen to many of her peers. “What happens is that everyone goes to where the money is, and your dreams, inspirations may not get funded,” she explains. “Specific communities may never get researched. Funding dictates what gets looked at.”

Now as a post-doc, Eli is faced with more difficult decisions. With over $112,000 in cumulative student debt, she has to look into options that will help alleviate her loans. Once again, the NIH can help. They offer to pay for up to 50% of her student loans in exchange for researching specific work.

While seeking guidance about the NIH program from her post-doc mentor, Eli had another eye-opening discovery: her mentor had no loans to pay for after she received her own Ph.D. How could someone not have any debt after so many years of education? Eli learned that her mentor’s parents both held Ph.D.s and had access to valuable information and networks that she did not. “They knew where to go to for money, how to ask for money, how to position yourself to be appealing to people to give you money,” she explains. “I had no idea about all that stuff. I’m a smart woman – but that only gets you so far. You need connections and that’s what my mentor had.”

Privilege and advantage are not always visible. Understanding how systems work, having connections and access to people with wealth – these are factors we may not always consider when we think about our own privilege and how we achieved our own success. Yet they play very real, important roles in our lives. “As an immigrant family, you’re not established here, you don’t know where the sources of funding are, you don’t know what the tricks are to get your kids a ‘free education,’” Eli explains. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Without these advantages, Eli finds herself far behind peers who graduated with little or no debt and simply have more options for working in their field. With student loan payments already eating into her limited finances, Eli needs to apply for programs like what the NIH is offering, despite the fact that it may yet again derail her from her desired career path.  “What starts to happen is that the debt starts to fight with your passion,” she says. “You might end up doing something because that was where the money is.” These are difficult choices to make.

In the end, Eli is proud of her accomplishments, and she treasures her education and the access and opportunities it will eventually give her. “In academia, there are very few people who look like me,” she says. “If there aren’t people who look like me and have my background and experience, then the things that we care about will not get researched and studied.”

A person’s interests come from their own experience and knowledge base. We need diversity in academia and research to ensure that populations on the periphery can receive equal attention and opportunity. There is a tremendous need for women and people of color to be doing this work. And for that reason, Eli holds her head high and basks in the knowing that she has made her grandmother very proud as she continues to strive for the extraordinary.

Issue III: Special Series on Retirement Security

Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today

The final issue brief, “Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today,” is available now alongside video content, online resources, and planning tools in a dedicated Retirement Security section of the Insight Center’s website.

Authored by Gabriela Sandoval, the Insight Center’s Director of Research and Chief Economic Security Officer, this final installment explores the current work of colleagues and partners in the field of retirement security. Each partner is listed, with information about their organization, key work they have conducted in the retirement security field, and links to relevant reports, articles, tools, and resources.

Read and download the final retirement piece here.

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles

New study reveals nuanced story of race and wealth in LA

The new report examines wealth inequality across racial and ethnic groups in Los Angeles, shows substantial disparity with Japanese, Asian Indians, Chinese and whites ranking among the top, while blacks, Mexicans, other Latinos, Koreans and Vietnamese rank far behind.

The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles” is the first report to compile detailed data on assets and debts among people of different races, ethnicities and countries of origin residing in the Los Angeles area. Researchers from UCLA, Duke University and The New School, with support from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, analyzed data on assets such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles. Debts included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt.

To download the full report click here.

Issue II: Retirement Security

Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today.

This second of three issue briefs, “Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today“. Authored by Gabriela Sandoval, the Insight Center’s Director of Research and Chief Economic Security Officer, this second installment brings several opportunities together to examine the significance of identifying and promoting safe, accessible and portable retirement savings platforms, programs and products. Now is the time to make retirement security a reality for all Americans.

Retirement security—or, the ability to make ends meet as a retired older adult—is becoming less and less attainable. Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen our nation’s promise broken. America’s promise offers a world where something better awaits the next generation, yet far too many ordinary middle and working class families, committed to provide a good life for their children, are still handed dwindling paychecks and made to pay more each day for the basics. American families were just following the rules for success: go to school, work hard, save, and prosperity will be your reward. The most ordinary things—a layoff, injury, illness or divorce— suddenly mean an end to the life they created, the security they were promised for working so hard.

Read and download the full issue brief here.

Issue I: Retirement Security

Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today.

This first of three issue briefs, “Retirement Security: We must plan for tomorrow, so our families can live for today“. Authored by Gabriela Sandoval, the Insight Center’s Director of Research and Chief Economic Security Officer, this first installment looks at the changing nature of work and retirement, and the intergenerational struggle to make ends meet through parents’ and grandparents’ golden years.

Retirement security—or, the ability to make ends meet as a retired older adult—is becoming less and less attainable. Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen our nation’s promise broken. America’s promise offers a world where something better awaits the next generation, yet far too many ordinary middle and working class families, committed to provide a good life for their children, are still handed dwindling paychecks and made to pay more each day for the basics. American families were just following the rules for success: go to school, work hard, save, and prosperity will be your reward. The most ordinary things—a layoff, injury, illness or divorce— suddenly mean an end to the life they created, the security they were promised for working so hard.

Read and download the full issue brief here.

Richmond opens the door to economic opportunity and security

The report, entitled, “Richmond Opens the Door to Economic Opportunity and Security” was authored by Sharon Cornu, a leading East Bay public policy expert and senior consultant at the Center. According to the report, expanding prospects for economic opportunity and security in Richmond (and comparable communities) are largely a product of decisions by policy makers, improved employer practices, and voluntary agreements.

The report provides an in depth look at UC Berkeley’s plan to build its Berkeley Global Campus (BGC) at Richmond Bay. The Global Campus projects a bold vision to transform the city’s south shoreline into a mix of diverse high-intensity light industrial, commercial, and residential uses.

But, how does the city attract business on the right terms? The report dives into solutions that new businesses need to provide for Richmond’s underserved and unemployed population, mostly made up of boys and men of color.

The study also includes a landscape scan by Mahvish Jafri titled Anchor Institutions and Innovation: A Landscape Scan. The scan profiles six educational institutions from across the country that serve as community “anchors.” These institutions have a great economic impact on the communities surrounding their campuses; all examples serve as evidence of the potential impact of bringing the BGC to the city of Richmond.

Read and download the full report here.