Millions of Americans each year are hit by lawsuits over unpaid debt, with the most devastating consequence being the seizure of money from a debtor’s wages or bank account. When ProPublica recently investigated the prevalence of such practices in The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods, a clear pattern emerged: they are massed in black neighborhoods. Even accounting for income, the rate of debt collection lawsuits was twice as high in mostly black neighborhoods as it was in mostly white ones. Two events in November will examine possible causes for these racial disparities in the debt collection system and how policy – at both the state and federal levels – can help eliminate them.

On Thursday, Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. CST, Washington University in St. Louis will invite community activists, elected officials and legal experts to discuss the effects of debt and the racial wealth gap in St. Louis, with an emphasis on resources for families and needed reforms for Missouri law. The event will feature:

  • Rev. Starsky Wilson, co-chair of the Ferguson Commission & president of Deaconess Foundation
  • Tishaura O. Jones, treasurer of the City of St. Louis
  • Todd Swanstrom, University of Missouri-St. Louis professor of political science
  • Paul Kiel, ProPublica reporter
  • Chris King, editorial director of the St. Louis American (moderator)

Learn more about the Washington University in St. Louis event here.

On Monday, Nov. 9 at 9:30 am EST, New America will host a panel discussion exploring consumer protection, financial insecurity and where federal policy can make a difference. The event will feature:

  • Anne Price, director of the Insight Center’s Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative
  • Jeanette Quick, senior counsel for U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
  • Paul Kiel, ProPublica reporter
  • Annie Waldman, ProPublica reporter
  • Jamil Smith, senior editor of New Republic and host of the INTERSECTION podcast (moderator)

Learn more about the New America event here.

You can follow both discussions online using #ColorOfDebt. Questions about these events? Contact Cynthia Gordy, ProPublica marketing director, at [email protected] or 202-341-0555.