Family Economic Mobility Toolkit

Advancing Equity

Advancing equity is at the heart of family economic mobility. One Head Start priority area is to advance equity, promoting belonging by identifying and addressing barriers and promoting new pathways for family stability. Many communities face barriers to economic mobility and do not have equal financial, educational, or career opportunities.

Advancing equity through family economic mobility means acknowledging communities are not at equal starting places, so any efforts to improve economic well-being must be individualized and tailored to the needs and interests of each specific community. In particular, equity focuses on communities that have been historically excluded from economic opportunities including African American, Latino, Hispanic, Indigenous, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and other people of color; members of religious minorities; people who are LGBTQIA2S+; people with disabilities; people who live in rural areas; and people adversely affected by persistent poverty or other forms of inequality.

To address economic inequities, we must support families in accessing the resources and opportunities needed to improve their economic well-being, while also acknowledging and addressing the systemic barriers preventing families from making progress. While this toolkit will not solve all of society's larger institutional challenges, the work you do with families to reduce these barriers at an individual family level can mean progress toward positive family and child outcomes.

Actions that Advance Equity

Head Start staff can advance equity when supporting family economic mobility through the following actions:

1. Learn about the history of oppression in the United States.

The history of the United States economy includes the injustices of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration, discriminatory immigration policies, discrimination based on sex and gender, and housing discrimination. Economic disparities continue to exist by race, ethnicity, sex, gender, immigration status, and geographical location across the United States. It is important for Head Start staff to know that economic inequality is mainly driven by structural and historical factors that have caused economic disparities, not by a knowledge gap or poor decision making.

Learn more about the history of oppression related to economic mobility:

2. Recognize implicit biases and harmful narratives.

Implicit bias refers to the subconscious beliefs or stereotypes that influence our ideas, attitudes, decision-making, and actions. The implicit biases we carry develop over the course of a lifetime and are formed by in-group norms, life experiences, and media consumption. Our implicit biases typically favor what is familiar or "normal" to ourselves as individuals. Even the most kind and well-intentioned people have implicit biases that may be harmful in how they think about and behave toward others. While implicit biases are largely involuntary, they are malleable and can be reshaped through conscious effort and reflection.[12] Head Start staff can reflect on their biases and intentionally work toward reducing implicit biases and harmful narratives. Learn more:

3. Bring an equity mindset to family economic mobility conversations.

Head Start staff can bring an equity mindset by using a strengths-based and non-judgmental approach to recognize that there are no "good" or "bad" economic decisions, and that families make the decisions that are best for them in the moment. The following resource from The Prosperity Agenda shows how to shift from a “personal responsibility money mindset” to an “equitable money mindset.”


Personal Responsibility Money Mindset

Equitable Money Mindset


Individual actions determine wealth or poverty.

Economic systems determine the choices and opportunities available to individuals.


Focus on changing individual behaviors.

Focus on seeing how dominant mindsets and economic systems affect our individual choices.


Financial wellness reflects the white, middle-class experience, such as single-family home and car ownership, and traditional savings.

Financial wellness reflects unique personal identity and culture.


Deficit-based, emphasizing a focus on “what not to do.”

Strengths-based and non-judgmental.


Prioritize technical skills, such as budgeting and raising your credit score.

People prioritize what is important and relevant to them.


A classroom environment where staff control the conversation by presenting knowledge and facts and people learn from financial experts alone.

A community space where staff or peers open up a conversation with dialogue, reflection, and inquiry and people learn from each other and financial experts.


Taking action requires money or austerity.

There are opportunities to take action now regardless of income.


4. Collaborate and advocate to make change in your community.

Head Start program staff and parent leaders are encouraged to partner in-person or virtually with local, state, or national-level coalitions, taskforce groups, or initiatives that work to enhance economic mobility across the community. Collaboration with community partners is a crucial way to advocate for the interests and needs of Head Start families. Head Start staff can encourage and support parents in becoming leaders in the community to advocate for the economic needs and interests of enrolled families. Parents can share stories about their family economic mobility journeys and represent the Head Start program by becoming representatives or members of local community groups. Learn more about enhancing parents' advocacy and leadership skills.

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