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Why does the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, focus on communities? How is Fed Communities involved?

Anne O'Shaughnessy
Anne O’Shaughnessy, Assistant Vice President and Communications Director, Fed Communities

As appeared in the Cleveland Fed Digest's Ask the Expert on 08.03.2021

Issue #45 | August 3, 2021

The central bank focuses on communities because thriving communities promote economic growth and financial stability, two outcomes for which the Federal Reserve aims. Clearly, not all communities are thriving. The Fed studies the economic challenges facing low- and moderate-income communities to understand these issues and inform possible solutions.

For instance, we know the pandemic has impacted lower-wage workers and communities of color more severely than it has workers able to perform their jobs remotely and communities whose residents experienced fewer job losses. Research done by Federal Reserve Banks in studying the pandemic and other issues—such as housing, access to jobs, and wealth inequality—can be used by policymakers and practitioners in addressing these challenges.

Fed Communities is involved for one simple reason: to increase awareness of the Fed’s work in communities. Most people—including many professionals who work in community development—don’t know of the Fed’s research and expertise in this area. We aim to change that fact.

How? Fed Communities tells stories that show how people in low- and moderate-income communities experience today’s economy. We present complex challenges in ways that feel understandable and relevant. We introduce audiences to Fed experts who partner with other professionals and residents across the nation to better understand economic challenges and propose resident- and data-informed solutions.

For instance, in 2020 we published a series of stories about minority-owned small businesses seeking Paycheck Protection Program funds during the pandemic. The series highlights the critical role community-based lenders play in getting capital to underserved Black and Brown communities and business owners, and showed how small business owners and lenders across the country handled the acute economic challenges brought on by the pandemic.

More recently, Fed Communities created a data-visualization tool that lets you explore how much more revenue each state might have generated in the previous 30 years if gender and racial pay gaps did not exist. This sobering thought experiment is one example of work that illustrates how addressing economic challenges in low- and moderate-income communities—in this case, by reducing inequities experienced by women and workers of color—can yield benefits for all.

We’re developing more resources that professionals working to improve communities can use to help them do their jobs. For example, our calendar lets you easily search for Fed events across the US. We’re publishing this month and next stories showing how CRA has impacted communities across the US—and why changes to the regulation are needed. We are also building a tool that quickly identifies Fed experts on topics relevant to your work.

You can think of Fed Communities as a first stop to your locating resources that each of the 12 Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors generates on issues impacting communities. Come on in and explore.


For more, check out stories, data, and other resources on Fed Communities. To see what’s coming next, subscribe to its newsletter.

Anne O’Shaughnessy is assistant vice president and communications director for Fed Communities. Her experience includes work in community development, corporate communications, and storytelling.

Have a question of your own for Anne? Email her.


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