The Top 5 Poverty Root Causes in the African Communities in WA State


The Washington State Coalition of African Community Leaders provides a platform for African community organizations and businesses to share resources and information to enable collaboration and to be the voice on all common issues affecting us. There was a need recognized to gather data and compile information around the areas of economic empowerment issues affecting African communities in Washington state and to develop possible resolutions to address the identified issue. This document covered the aforementioned topic.

Why is this Important to Us?

The Washington State Governor’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup has been tasked with developing a strategic plan to reduce poverty, improve communities and make needed progress related to housing, health integration, employment, and education for residences in Washington State. Providing data that acknowledge the root causes of poverty in the African Communities in WA State is very important to the coalition as this will facilitate addressing the issues and challenges before the Workgroup from the African resident community perspective. The African Communities via the coalition believe it is of great importance for their voice to be heard by Governor’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup to focus its strategic plan in reducing or eliminating the poverty root causes that are very specific to the African Communities.

Top 5 Poverty Root Causes for African Communities in WA State

At our general meeting on October 27, 2018, we held an information gathering session and discussed and identified the top 5 issues that are preventing African immigrants and refugees in our community the opportunity for social and economic advancement in the State of Washington. We utilized the poverty root cause list compiled by the Washington State Governor’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup. We split into 3 groups of 7 to review the poverty root causes list and come up with the top 5 issues each group believes are the cause of poverty affecting the African communities. Below is a list of those 5 five root causes that were selected and determined to be of foremost importance by each group:

Once each group had their top 5 poverty root causes identified and elaborated, we then reconvened and deliberated about each root cause. The causes we found that had the biggest impact were those that were common amongst the groups. As a result, we came to the conclusion that the top 5 poverty root causes affecting our communities are as follows: housing not affordable, daycare not affordable, educational achievement, not access to health care, and discrimination.

The top 5 poverty root causes identified by the coalition as affecting African Communities in Washington State

At the 2 nd Annual Washington State of Coalition of African Community Leaders (WSCACL) Summit on November 10, 2018, we received 40 unique responses – from a diverse back group of over 10 African countries – to our poverty root cause survey. The community leaders share the harsh realities of their experiences as well as those of their community members on how these 5 poverty root causes manifest itself in African immigrants and refugee communities in Washington State.

Housing Not Affordable

The rising cost of housing poses a big concern for most African residence especially those that have several children. With the average cost of housing being approximately $2,000 per month, most low income immigrates struggle with meeting that monthly commitment especially in a case with single parents. Some people end up homeless due to the high cost of housing, thereby not being able to provide a stable home for their family and children to stay grounded in school. Typically, immigrates need to work 2 or more jobs to make ends met as a result, the in-affordability of housing leads to homelessness. Furthermore, they work shift work not a regular work schedule of Mon-Fri (8 am-5 pm) and daycare is not only affordable but also not accessible during those shifts

Possible Solution(s): “Instead of fighting for affordable housing which keeps us at the bottom [of the
economic scale], … how about home [ownership]?” – Jeph Owusu Implement different criteria for homeownership and provide awareness of assistance programs that are available to the first time how owners. Since the mortgage payment says the same over the life of the loan if written properly, immigrants are able to preserve their monthly expenses even if the rent in the area goes up. A creative solution is looking into setting up a co-buying home so multiple people can come together to purchase a home.

Daycare Not Affordable

The high cost of childcare requires a lot of income-producing families to designate a large part of their income towards daycare costs in order to maintain a career to provide for the family. As the standard of living good up, income for a majority of the immigrant communities stays the same. However, these families do not qualify for the federally funded program so children are placed in sub-standard care which results in slower mental development not preparing those kids for school or personal development. Furthermore, since the cost of daycare is very expensive, parents cannot afford to work full time (thereby reducing their income-producing potential by 50%) or parent opts to not work at all.

Possible Solution(s): A possible solution is to bring African families together by setting up an informal daycare system were a group of community members can come together to care for the children of parents in the group. State programs to support these communities.

Educational Achievement

This root cause is more prevalent in the refugee community which in fact, is the vast majority of African immigrants in the Puget Sound area. Low-income position in an area amongst the highest cost of living index in the United States further prevents the economic advancement of our communities. Obtaining higher education credentials are out of reach for many families due to the cost.

Possible Solution(s): Many immigrates already have degrees in their country which does not necessarily get transferred to the US. Transferring education earned from Africa to an equivalent degree in the US. This option will save people not only a lot of time but also a lot of money. Create incentives for immigrants to open African owned businesses. When those business owners hire African immigrants will lead to economic empowerment amongst numerous areas. Finally, offering cost-effective programs, or grants, aids, or scholarships for high demand skills will help those immigrants obtain the skills needed to be a professional in the State of

No Access to Healthcare

The African Immigrants that do not have a professional career usually do not have access to affordable health care since that benefit is not offered to them by their employers or is too costly for the family to afford enrollment. Since these immigrants can’t afford health care, the high causes of disabilities or health-related deaths are diseases that are preventable if these issues could be diagnosed and treatable if detected in the early stages. Also, a lack of information on how to access affordable insurance or routine preventive care will be useful.

Possible Solution(s): health experts to train the community on health-related awareness, health assessment for


This is a sensitive topic for most people. Our view on how this affects our community is a little a bit different for us than the general population. Limited access to resources, barriers to entry due to the limited English language, and cultural/lack of understanding our core values are a few examples of discrimination is manifested further amplifying the other 4 poverty root cause areas.

Possible Solution(s): being able to be given an equitable opportunity in education and work environment


The top 5 causes of poverty outlined above, we can conclude that they are all very pressing issues in our African Communities. However, the most important of all of these issues is the educational achievement, and here are the reasons why:

The ability to further one’s education, whether in the traditional education system or in trades, will give our African residents the skills needed to pursue a higher paid career which in turn will help ease the burden on housing and daycare affordability which essentially leads to reduce the impact of 3 out of the 5 poverty issues. Having access to educational achievement may also solve some aspect of having no access to healthcare as some of our residents may be fortunate to be employed by larger businesses that offer those benefits.

The vast majority of our communities are made up of hardworking, ambitious, and motivated individuals and families. As immigrants, we came to the United States of America, the land of opportunity, to better our lives. We believe having access to more opportunities for educational achievement will equip us with the skills needed to have a better opportunity for economic empowerment and development.

Next Steps

Our goal as a coalition is to work with the Governor’s Poverty Reduction Workgroup, any government agency, or any organizations that will support us reduce or eliminate the poverty root cause for African immigrates and refugees in Washington State.

Please reach out to the coalition via, for questions, comments, suggestions, or feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *