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Center for Equitable Family & Community Well-Being

Redefining University-Community Engagement

In a dynamic, post-industrial multi-cultural society, it is easy for systems and policies to evolve in such a way that they become misaligned. Similarly, with a history of racism and growing class divides, some families and communities receive inadequate attention and investment and find themselves disconnected from the resources and opportunities of their surrounding economy. Successful responses are not easy or guaranteed, but there are occasions when policymakers make an appropriate fix or when grassroots leaders and local champions rally around a promising strategy. The goal of the Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being is to encourage and support such win-win efforts by connecting the resources and intellectual strength of the University of Michigan with the passion and social capital of community leaders.

Most importantly, families and communities will be at the heart of our work. The primary criteria for any project work will be that it explicitly improve the well-being of families and/or communities and reduce existing inequities. 

Although there are many partnerships and models of engaged research that take place between the University and external individuals or groups, the work is often disconnected, especially as they show up in the Detroit metropolitan area. The methodology introduced here will be intentional about connecting other U of M centers and initiatives around Center projects and associated goals.

Trina Shanks
Professor and Director, Center for Equitable Family & Community Well-Being

Core Values

  • Impact through economic empowerment
  • Impact through results
  • Impact through relationship and resource collaboration


  • To amplify ideas that empower families and communities to thrive.


  • Utilizing collaborative relationships and innovative practice to foster a more equitable distribution of power and resources.

White Paper Series

The Racial Wealth Gap at the Low End of the Mortgage Distribution: Evidence from SmallestDollar Mortgage Lending in Metro Detroit

March, 2023

Patrick Meehan

Does small-dollar lending help to close the racial wealth gap in Metro Detroit? Using data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act on the 2,236 smallest-dollar loans made in the Metro Detroit region from 2018 to 2021, we find that lending at the low end of the mortgage distribution perpetuates the racial wealth gap. Specifically, we find Black borrowers are more leveraged, have less purchasing power, and thus experience far less wealth-building potential through homeownership than White borrowers. Moreover, homeownership is more expensive in majority-Black neighborhoods in Metro Detroit than it is in majority-White neighborhoods, leaving borrowers little room to accumulate equity in their homes. Implications for homeownership as a mechanism to close the racial wealth gap are discussed.

See all White Papers »

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