Black History Month: Lee Pelton working to close Boston’s wealth gap

BOSTON — “I grew up in humble beginnings,” said Lee Pelton, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation. “The house that I lived in growing up had no indoor plumbing until I was six years old.”

That was in Wichita, Kansas back in the 1950s.

Fast forward a few decades — and 1,400 miles — and Pelton is now at the helm of one of Boston’s most venerable institutions.

Founded in 1915, The Boston Foundation now has net assets of $1.7 billion.

Pelton said his principal role at the foundation is to improve lives and strengthen communities. “That is our mission, and we do that with equity in the center of all that we do and all that we hope to do.”

Pelton came to The Boston Foundation in 2021 after leading Emerson College for a decade.

His primary objective for the foundation is sharpening its focus to make equity central to all its projects.

“Now is a time for us to pivot in a different way.”

One particular area of concern is addressing the wealth gap. Pelton says it’s massive here in the Boston area.

Citing a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, he said, “White residents have a net worth of almost $250,000 and that Black residents have a net worth of eight bucks. That’s not a mistake. Eight dollars.”

Another issue Pelton wants to address is the disparity in housing. “Because it is still the largest component of accumulated wealth for most individuals and families. It’s a way to build wealth.”

When asked what gives him hope for the future, Pelton said “What gives me hope about the city of Boston is it continues to change. This is not the place that you know 50 years ago, where we had, you know, the 1974 disruption and busing. We’ve made tremendous progress.”

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW