Reflections: A Data-Driven Approach for Equity

Frank Ridzi tells us about a new racial equity section on CNY Vitals, our 'state of the community' website.

Reflections: Our Personal & Professional Efforts Toward Racial Equity is a monthly blog. Each month, we will reflect on what we are doing either personally or professionally to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our work. View more

View our Equity Values & Commitment


In early September, many Central New Yorkers woke up to a television news report that Syracuse ranks 2nd in economic disparity for Black residents when compared with other cities across the nation. This jarring and horrific distinction was cited in a study conducted by online lending agency LendingTree, which made the determination after studying five years of U.S. Census data.

While Syracuse’s ranking compared to other cities was new information to us, the existence of disparities was not. We were guided by similar data several years ago, leading us to launch the Black Equity and Excellence Fund. Our data-driven rationale for the fund cited disparities in life expectancy, median household income, infant mortality and fourth grade reading levels. To date, the fund has awarded $1.3 million since 2020 to Black-led organizations to help reverse the dynamic that the LendingTree study recently highlighted.

While the Community Foundation has worked to secure equitable and fair outcomes for all children and adults in our community for decades, these data made us realize that we were ignoring an elephant in the room if we did not acknowledge that race is a determining factor when it comes to social problems.

Black community members are not the only ones who find themselves caught up in situations that are larger than any one person or family can handle on their own. That is why we added a racial equity section to CNY Vitals this year.  CNY Vitals is our ‘state of the community’ website that provides a common source of data and interactive visualizations on critical topics that affect the health and progress of our region. It not only informs community members but also has been an essential resource to us as we identify needs and launch strategic initiatives such as LeadSafeCNY to address them.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the dashboard includes nearly all of the metrics that LendingTree used (home ownership, education, household income, and the unemployment rate), plus more.

Many of these data points already existed in CNY Vitals but we have expanded what we offer by disaggregating data in the following key areas:

  1. Residents & Civic Participation
  2. Education
  3. Well-Being & Wealth Accumulation
  4. Employment & Income

While we hope making this information public will spur discussion and plan community investments, we are also using it to inform our work. Data on these disparities are incorporated in the Community Foundation’s strategic planning metrics, with the goal of making positive community change.

For instance, where we have had a long-term focus on literacy, we now have goals for literacy improvement disaggregated by race. Similarly, we now have goals for decreased lead exposure for a series of groups disaggregated by race. In this way, our work continues to be guided by the data.

We invite you to learn more about Central New York’s community needs by visiting cnyvitals.org.

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