Equity, Demography and the Future of the American Economy
Advancing equity — just and fair inclusion into a society in which everyone can participate and prosper — has often been viewed separate from, or even opposed to, efforts to foster economic competiveness and efficiencies in the marketplace.
This webinar makes the case that in light of the nation’s demographic transformation, pursuing strategies that create more inclusion are no longer only moral imperatives—they are economic ones. Presenters will share the latest on the demographic shifts changing the country and outline emerging research that makes the case that equity-driven growth and business development are fundamental to the nation’s economic future.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity
University of Southern California
Senior Associate, Center for Community and Economic Opportunity
Annie E. Casey Foundation
The slide deck for this webinar is available in PDF form: Download PDF
So at this time I’d like to introduce Charles Rutheiser from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Charles is a senior associate at the Center for Community and Economic Opportunity. He manages the center’s grant portfolios related to the anchor institutions and knowledge development and he’s part of the team that’s developing the foundation’s next generation investment strategy and community change. Charles is also a longtime partner and sponsor of Meeting of the Minds. Charles is now going to introduce our speakers for today’s program. So Charles, please take it away.
Well, thank you very much, Jessie, and on behalf of the Casey Foundation I would like to thank everyone who is joining us today, to this webinar.
The mission of the Casey Foundation is to improve opportunities and outcomes for vulnerable kids and families. And over the years we’ve been partnering with a variety of organizations and actors who share our desire to reduce the disparities in American society. And we’re a proud supporter of the work that you’re going to hear more about today, as well as of Meeting of the Minds.
So we have two goals, two sort of modest goals for today’s webinar. The first is to provide some conceptual grounding for the fact that equity, you know, we normally think about equity as being a moral or a backward ethical or value imperative, but the key thing we want to set here and talk about more in September is the fact that it’s also, the case for equity is also an economic one, that it makes sense and it’s absolutely a necessary precondition for being able to improve our economy for all as we go forward in the decades and centuries to come. The second and much more pragmatical is to be able to solicit some input from folks who are likely to be in Toronto so that we can better sort of fine tune and tailor the presentation for maximum effect in September.
So our two presenters today, Angela Glover Blackwell is the CEO and Founder of Policy Link, which is a very innovative and effective research and action institute that is advancing economic and social equity. Manuel Pastor is a professor of sociology, American studies in ethnicity at USC and director on the program for environmental and regional equity. Angela and Manuel are long-term collaborators and last year published a book called, On Common Ground: Race and America’s Metropolitan Future. So I’ll hand it off now to Angela.
Angela Glover Blackwell
Thank you, Charles, and thank you all for joining. As Charles indicated, we are really at an extraordinary moment in which a new economic model is needed for us to be able to have a society in which all can participate. What we’ve seen is that we’ve arrived at this moment at the very time that our demographics are changing rapidly.
Before we flip through these slides to show you exactly how they’re changing I just want you to reflect on the fact that the America that we often visualize that we are occupying today is probably different from what we think it is and it will be very different by the year 2040. As we think about the growing numbers of people of color who will make up the majority by 2043 it’s also important for us to think about something that is often painful for us as a nation to reflect upon and that is that so many people who are Latino, African American, Native American, groups within the Asian population are often being left behind. They’re being left behind in terms of education, health, wealth, income, all kinds of issues that will be important for them to be able to fully participate going forward.
So what we’re going to be talking about for the next 20 minutes or so is that the agenda that we have always struggled around as a nation, creating conditions that allow all to reach their full potential, has become an economic imperative. I call that inclusion agenda the equity agenda, which we defined as just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate and prosper.
As we look at the demands that we’re placing on the economy going forward we think that the agenda of getting everybody contributing is really what we need for a strong economy going forward. So let’s look at what’s happening with the shift in demographics. The message you will now see moving in front of you, look at the places in the nation in which people of color make up 30 percent or more. Where you see the light orange is 30 percent, where you see the darkest orange is greater than 50 percent. And you’re looking at how that changes from 1980 to 2040. You will see that by the time we get to 2040 the United States looks very different from what it looked like in 1980 where 80 percent of the people who lived in America were white. By 2040 less than 50 percent will be.
As we continue to think about the demographics though it’s also important to understand that we are not just changing into the future, we have already changed. The next slide shows you what we actually look like. The grey is 1970, the grey area represents 83 percent of the nation, white. By 2050, 46 percent will be. Today, the majority of babies born in America are already of color. And by the time we get to 2043 over 50 percent of the nation will be.
Again, when you think about the future we also have to understand that we’re laying the groundwork for this today. When we looked at the growth in the nation from the year 2000 to 2010, 92 percent of the growth came because of people of color. As we think of 2010 to 2040 you will see that the majority of the growth is going to continue to happen in this country is going to be coming from the growing numbers of people of color. This map, I think, speaks for itself.
So when we think about the challenge that we have had in terms of making sure that young people are getting the investments that they need so that they can be the entrepreneurs, the workers, the civic leaders of tomorrow, it becomes very clear that that equity challenge that has always been hard for us to fully meet as a nation takes on new urgency. There’s a lot to think about in the assertion that equity really is the model that we’re going to need for the future and we’re going to take that apart a little bit over the course of this time to be able to understand exactly where are we and where is it that we need to go. Manuel.
But before we do what we want to do is uncover a little bit about what’s going on beneath the demographics as well. And this is a challenging webinar to do because we want to make it tantalizing enough that you want to come to the Meeting of the Minds gathering in Toronto, but not so complete that you feel like you’ve already heard the story. Nonetheless, we’re trying to put out as much as we can with this.
And one of the things that’s really important to realize is that when people see the changing demographics in both those charts and in those maps their immediate thought is that what must be driving this is immigration because that’s been part of this sort of driving force for some of the past demographic change. But really what’s driving it going into the future is the birth of the sons and daughters really of those immigrants in the United States. Now it’s really a home grown revolution. And this is going to continue to be the case in the future. Immigration into the country is actually tapering off.
It’s one of the reasons why comprehensive immigration reform is actually being cued up right now because of the fact that we’ll probably see less immigrants in the future. Immigration into the country’s been slowing down for the last couple of years, and that’s migration from Mexico, which is our largest sending country, has been zero for the last few years. With the lack of that immigrant flow in the future economists and others are worried about whether or not we’ll have enough flavor. One of the reasons why there’s such a call for investment in the young people who are being born in this country right now. But we’re going to have less immigration in the future partly because the fertility rates in places like Mexico changed dramatically. Thirty years ago a woman over the course of her lifetime would, in Mexico, would have more than five children, currently, the fertility rate is 2.3. The fertility rate in the United States is 1.7.
As those two narrow the push factors from Mexico change, the push factors from the growth in Latin America change as well with healthier Latin American economies and last year was the first year that Asian migration into the United States exceeded Latin American migration. So with immigration no longer being such an important part of the story, what’s driving it?
This shows you the change in the youth population, those under the age of 18, between 2000 and 2010. The number of young whites actually fell by 4.3 million. This is because there were more people moving into 19 and 20 than moving into one and two. But the net number of young white fell by 4.3 million. The net number of young African Americans by 250,000, although some of that may be a re-identification into the other category on the far right there in terms of people identifying multiracially.
But the big growth is coming from the Latino youth population at 4.8 million and the Asian Pacific Islander population at 800,000. And what this means is that the workers of the future are really those young folks coming up. And while dealing with issues of racial inequality has in the past been a question of justice, inclusion, fairness. It’s really now a question of economic competitiveness as well.
And you can see part of the reason why we’re not really making some of those investments have to do with what I think is actually the most interesting statistic to come out of this census, which is the difference in median age, half older, half younger, by race in the United States. The median age for non-Hispanic whites is 42 years, the median age for Asian Pacific Islanders 35, for African Americans and Native Americans the median age is 32, while the median age for Latinos is 27. Forty two, 27, 15 years. Basically a generation gap. And in places like California that’s much bigger it’s 44 to 27, a 17 year generation gap. And that means that sometimes an older generation does not necessarily see itself in a younger generation. It also, by the way, helps to explain the changing demographics. Twenty seven, prime family formation age, 42, a little bit older than that.
But the big thing that we’ve been looking at is whether or not this generation gap by race, this racial generation gap actually has a consequence in terms of public policy. And we found that it does. This shows you the share of seniors who are non-Hispanic white and how that’s been relatively stable between 1975 and 2010, while the share of youth who are non-Hispanic white has been declining dramatically over that period of time. And this is a period of time in which we’ve seen federal resources shift more to supporting those who are older and move away from doing the kind of supports that are necessary for those who are younger to be able to be maximally competitive and productive in the workforce. And this means we need to really be considering how do we repair this generation, this kind of generational disconnect that’s reflected at a political disconnect and begin to build the public will to do what we need to have a better America in the future. Angela.
Angela Glover Blackwell
Thanks, Manuel. In the same sense that the nation actually looks different from what we imagine that it does and will look very different in the future, the economy is different from what we might thing. That as we think about the economy that we need to go forward some of our assumptions are being challenged.
It’s not so challenging to imagine that we need to make sure that the workforce of tomorrow is prepared for tomorrow. We’re in trouble in that realm. When we think about it, by 2018 45 percent of all jobs will require at least an associate degree. Only 27 percent of black Americans have it, only 26 percent of US born Latinos and 14 percent of non-US born Latinos.
As we think about how beyond just jobs and the entire economy one thing that’s being completely challenged is this notion of inequality being good for growth. There has been a general assumption that high inequality has been good for growth and it’s just not so. Many people are starting to point this out. Economists are now coming to the conclusion that inequality is actually bad for growth.
There have been recent Eco analysis that have actually shown, and the screen that you’re looking at now is an indication of this, that while many things contribute to spells of growth and how long they are, income distribution is one of the most important. And if you look at the slide on the right it’s very clear that as inequality increases the spells of growth decrease.
The International Monetary Fund did a study of more than 100 countries and found that a ten percent decrease in inequality brought about a 50 percent longer period of growth. Not just the International Monetary Fund that’s making this point, the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank recently found that a regional growth was better sustained if there was more equality.
Inequality is bad for regional growth and development. In addition to some work that Manuel Pastor, my colleague on the phone, has been doing, Daron Acemoglu at MIT’s recent book, Why Nations Fail, makes this point. And I think many of us may have heard Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz talking about his newest book, The Price of Inequality, where he’s looking both internationally and domestically about how inequality is bad for growth.
So as we think about inequality being bad for growth we look at well what do we do about it. The inequality problem is a problem for the nation as we have seen so many people lose their homes in foreclosure, so many solidly middle class families of all races begin to slip into poverty because of the period of recession that we’ve been in, it is pretty clear that we need strategies that allow all to be able to reach their full potential.
And investing in those strategies isn’t just good for those individuals, it’s good for the economy. Business community’s been pretty familiar with this. Business, for some time, has been looking at diversity as an asset. We have seen that when businesses employ more people of color they are able to communicate better with diverse constituency, we operate it in a global economy and people who have businesses that have more people of color, more diversity of all kinds on their staff at every level are able better to participate in the global economy.
We also know that in the United States Asians, Latinos and African Americans are more likely to start businesses and the businesses that they have started are really doing very well. And the mapóthe slide that’s up makes that point.
Well, what businesses understand about diversity is it’s not just enough to have a diverse staff, to have diverse employees, that diversity has to run throughout the organization up into the board room, up into the highest executive levels to get the full impact.
So, too, the nation needs to think about how the shifting demographics allows for an opportunity for the entire nation to feel the assets that grow with that diversity, but we have to make sure that people are educated, that they are trained, that they’re living their opportunity.
As we think about how to be able to go forward it is quite clear that we need to think differently about how we spend all of our dollars. Once something becomes an economic imperative for the nation, the nation has to work on the problem of equity not just through special programs focused on anti-poverty or improved education, it has to think about it with all of its spending. And nowhere is this more likely than in the area of infrastructure.
We as a nation spend billions of dollars on infrastructure and we often are thinking about our sewage system, our transportation systems, our roads and bridges and how important it is that they are sturdy and reliable.
But infrastructure spending also is an opportunity to advance equity. If we do it right and hire people who are in communities where we often have many of these major projects being constructed we’re creating jobs. If we make sure that we get infrastructure into communities that are sometimes left behind, like rural communities being left behind because they don’t have broadband, we’re connecting people to a regional economy. And so we need to think about where we put our infrastructure investments to allow more people to participate in the economy and how we spend those dollars so that more people have access to jobs.
Maryland is a wonderful example of a place that has used its infrastructure to be able to make sure that they’re getting jobs to people who need them most. They’re now striving to direct 25 percent of their annual spending to the areas that are most in need of employment opportunities. And while they haven’t fully reached their goal they’re doing very well. They’re making real strides in that direction.
The city of San Francisco through its public utilities commission is preparing to spend $4 billion to upgrade its sewer system. And the city and county has passed a requirement for some local hiring that will make sure that many of those jobs get to the people who need it now.
But it’s not just the public spending through infrastructure that helps us to bring people into the economy, many of our anchor institutions, universities, hospitals, that really allow communities to have a stable economic source can do more to make sure that they’re spending gets to the people who need it most so that we’re pulling everybody into the economy, allowing them to contribute and helping the whole nation to be strong.
There’s a wonderful example, again in Cleveland, where the anchor institutions, the universities, the hospitals that come together and made sure that they are leveraging the spending that they’re doing to be able to target that purchasing power so that women and minority contractors are able to participate.
The Evergreen Collaborative is actually not only gathering contracts from some of these anchor institutions for things like the laundry that needs to be done in the hospitals, but they’re helping people who were formerly incarcerated to have the training and the participation in the labor market that will allow them not just to have jobs, but to be co-owners of a business so that we’re retrieving people who have been pushed out, bringing them back into community, creating economic opportunity and bringing the economy back.
All of these things build on the notion that when we invest in ways that are smart, in people who will be the future we secure a brighter future for all of us.
So I’m going to talk about a few more, two more paths that we think are really suggestive of directions we should go, but I want to loop back to some of what Angela was saying before about needing to have a revolution in our economic thinking that matches the revolution that’s really going on in our demography, that is to sort of big changes in the demography both going forward and what’s driving it are so different than what we thought in the economy as well.
This argument about inequality dampening growth is sometimes a difficult argument for people to get in part because there’s been such a long tradition in the economics of associating why there are disparities with in fact faster economic growth. But it was in the 1990’s and in the [odds] that the economists first began looking at the developing world and realizing that those places that had stark inequalities were in fact growing much more slowly than those places that started from more equitable positions.
And none of that international work, looking at the difference between more equitable societies in Asia and historic kind of economic oligarchies in Latin America we began to evolve a brand of research looking at metropolitan regions in the United States that follows a parallel thing.
Now, why is it that a relative equity actually promotes more economic growth? It’s because places that are more equal seem to be making more investments in widespread human capital that is public education that sort of benefits everyone.
Places that are more equitable tend to have less squabbles when there is a recession unlessóand more sharing of what the opportunities might be when there’s an economic burst in growth pattern. And there also tends to be in places in societies that tend to have less inequality less financial speculation, less financiallization of the economy. All of those things mean that equity has now begun to do something that actually helps to drive economic growth.
And, you know, this is actually something that’s also getting through to business folks. I often use the example of Southwest Airlines, the only airline that hasn’t declared bankruptcy four or five times in the last couple of years, and has shown a profit in every quarter I think over about the last 22 years. Well, it’s an airline that’s unionized, but it’s an airline where the employees feel like they’re very much part of the entire team that is Southwest Airlines. They’re treated very well and as a result they’re quite flexible in how they do their jobs, quite productive in how they do their jobs, their company benefits, the consumers benefit, the workers benefit.
And we need to begin to realize that that’s a better way to organize a business, most businesses know that, and it’s a better way to organize our society and in particular metropolitan regions. So I find on sort of two specific channels about anchor institutions and public infrastructure spending that Angela mentioned.
The other things that are really important in terms of creating a more equitable economy that we want to focus on are two. One is building human capital. And here what we’re talking about is job training and career pathways. You know, to help people in an economy there’s really three basic things. One is to lift the floor so people can’t fall too far. The other is to create paths through the economy so people can be mobile over time. And then the third is to grow the economy.
The equity portion is about making sure there’s a floor there, growing is really important for us to be paying attention to. The idea of paths through the economy is to begin to identify what are the job training programs that actually help to connect people to the industries of the future and also help to connect people to career pathways that are moving forward.
Siemens, for example, has a really great program around training people for new kinds of technology in North Carolina. And one of the things that we’ve been working on with the Los Angeles Lines for New Economy, Brookings Institution and a number of others is trying to take advantage of the fact that there’s going to be large procurements for railcars. Think about how we could attract a railcar and then grow the railcar industry in the United States and to provide the kind of job training so people can take those jobs, advance in those jobs over time.
The other big economic opportunity coming up, and it’s not often thought this way, but it’s something that really does plan the questions of inclusion and prosperity is comprehensive immigration reform. You know, it’s difficult to have a society that’s functioning at its maximum when you’ve got so many people living in the shadows and living in fear.
And here, from a study that we’re releasing at the end of the month, is a statistic that should give people some cause for concern. In Los Angeles County alone there’s about 550,000 children who have one undocumented parent. Of those 550,000 85 percent were born in the United States. A comprehensive immigration reform which creates a path towards citizenship for those parents is going to improve their economic prospects, improve their ability to access better employment, improve their ability to purchase house, rent a bigger apartment, live near a better school, etc., and it’s going to improve the chances of those children to be successful as well.
Most economists looking at our current immigration system and looking at what comprehensive immigration reform could bring are well aware that comprehensive immigration reform, and particularly one would include a full path towards citizenship, is going to generate huge economic gains for the nation.
The passage from being undocumented to being a citizen is between a 15 and 25 percent increase in income and that’s not even accounting for some of the human capital acquisitions that will occur along the way as people learn better English…and learn better skills, etc. So there’s huge economic potential in comprehensive immigration reform. It’s going to require that we actually, as with job training, as with public infrastructure, as with anchor institutions, think about what we need to spend to be able to do it.
So simply passing a law is not going to be enough. We’re going to need to make sure that we have the institutions in place for immigrant integration that will allow people to learn English, that will allow parents to become more engaged in their kids’ education, etc.
But we think that, you know, this is something that will bring equity, it will bring fairness, it will bring inclusion, but clearly it’ll bring huge economic benefits.
And I guess our central ness it’s, to close, is that what’s often been thought of as a scary thing, my gosh the population is changing, or an impossible thing, how are we going to deal with economic inclusion and economic justice, these things have actually become the kind of guideposts for economic future.
When we’re thinking about what we are going to look like as a nation we need to remember that late 2043 will be majority people of color, by 2019, 2020 the majority of folks under the age of 18 will be people of color. If we are preparing for successful economic and social future we have to make sure that those young people are on solid ground and we need to deal with the structures of racial inequality that prevent people from maximizing their economic and educational opportunities and potential because we need people, particularly with the aging of America and the increase in what’s called the dependency ratio, the fact that each working person will be supporting more older people who are retired we need to make sure that that generation coming up has no obstacles in their way and can be as productive and contributing as possible.
And to do this we’re going to need to shift our thinking and our policies, to shift our thinking away from thinking so there’s a contradiction between dealing with equity and dealing with economic growth, to recognize that there are sweet spots, you know, both that the equity proponents are going to have to learn about where the sweet spots are, but certainly those who’ve long proposed just growth, that growth alone will do it are going to need to understand where the sweet sports are as well. And as we look for those sweet spots think about different kinds of policies who we’ve never thought about before, things like comprehensive immigration reform, building human capital, thinking about how we spend on public infrastructure and thinking about the important procurement roles of anchor institutions and how they can help develop our metropolitan areas, reach out to those who are least advantaged and build an economy that works for everyone.
Fantastic. And Manuel, is that it? We can go into Q&A then?
Yes, I’m hoping that was a good emotional conclusion.
That was very emotional, thank you. Great, well, this has been definitely enlightening for me, and we have a bunch of questions that are coming in, so maybe I’ll start from the beginning. Some questions came in during the statistical slides of the presentation, and one question is maybe, Manuel, you can answer this. Who is the “other” category? How does this number impact your prediction?
Yeah, the other category is people who don’t in the census either claim that they’re Hispanic or one of the sort of major racial groups that are identified by the census, and so that other category includes folks who just check other, but that also includes folks there who check multiracial. One of the things I think all of us would’ve thought would be that the share of people who check multiracial would be growing, but it’s not growing very much, which is sort of interesting, and I think part of the reason for that is while there’s some African-Americans who’ve shifted to checking the multiracial category was first introduced in the year 2000, and we would’ve expected the share of folks marking it to have grown pretty dramatically between 2000 and 2010 but it did not.
I think a lot of the African-Americans essentially looking at the structures of racial inequality in the United States still check black just as President Obama did in the last census count, and for Latinos who basically mark all sorts of racial categories but consider their, their Latino-ness to be their primary ethnic identification. That’s who they check. There are some really interesting questions about that. I know there was another question that came up in the chat about the category of black and how it sort of obscures some really key differences between African immigrants and Caribbean immigrants and US-born African-Americans, and so that’s true. In some of our work, particularly when we’re dealing with the larger data points in the United States where you have really big samples, we will break out the US-born African blacks from foreign-born blacks to be able to take a look at those kind of differences, but each of these categories does require some crazy assumptions sometimes when you’re putting them and aggregating them together. At the same time, they really are important categories and they do tell us something.
Yeah, great, perfect. I’m going to start from the top. There’s some great questions coming in. Thanks, you guys. Keep them coming. Another question, could you guys define inequality and what are the drivers that fuel this inequality? So we’ll maybe Angela, you want to pick that one up?
Angela Glover Blackwell
I’m going to let Manuel do that one. I see a couple others about how we build public will that I’ll take, yeah.
Can you ask the question again for me?
Oh, yeah, sure, if you could define inequality in our society and what the drivers are that fuel that inequality.
Gosh, what an easy question. So the way that we define it operationally in terms…this is going to get me into another question.
Let me start with another question that’s asked that comes later because it gets back to this question. So I’m an economist by training, so I tend to define things in ways that are strict and sort of measurable, and one of the questions that came up later is what is the ñ is there hard data on the relationship between inequality at a community level and economic growth versus the motivational story I tried to offer with regard to Southwest, and yes, there is. There’s, again, the study from the Cleveland Federal Reserve that Angela mentioned. There is a book that I did with Chris Benner that’s called Just Growth: Inclusion in Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions that includes both our own regression work looking at relationship between inequality and economic grown and also pretty neatly summarizes the literature, at least up to about last year about the domestic work that’s been done on this including stuff by Hal Wolman who’s at George Washington University, stuff that was done by some other economists that you probably want to read and be paying attention to, and the new IMF study that Angela was talking about looking at the relationship between inequality and the length of growth spells because if a growth lasts for a long time and is sustained, investors feel more comfortable, they invest more because they figure the economy’s going to keep on going. So you really ñ how do you get that virtuous cycle growing? Well, Chris and I are working on a project and we’ve just finished the statistics for it mimicking what the IMF did internationally to look at growth spells by metropolitan regions in the United States, and the single biggest factor that predicts the length of a growth spell is the relative equality of the economy at the beginning of the growth spell. How do we measure equality? We do it using something that’s called a genie coefficient which is a measure of inequality that’s pretty standard in the economic literature. We also look at the 80/20 ratio, the ratio of income for people with the 80th percentile of the income distribution relative to the 20th percentile of the income distribution. We also tend to look at things like racial segregation or class segregation in terms of concentrations of poverty and where people live because we think ñ and this will segue into what Angela’s going to talk about ñ that those things affects sort of social fragmentation and the willingness to make decisions together. So there’s a lot of hard data on this. There’s a lot of different ways to measure it. When I think about talking about this, though, I think that when we think about equity and making the argument, we really, particularly in the US context, while you have to measure it by outcomes because that’s where you’ve got the measurement tools to do it, we need to talk about it in terms of equity of opportunity. That is, do people have access to good schools? Do they have access to clean air? Do they have access to transit that will get them to jobs? Do they have access to job training programs? Do they have access to business finance so they can take advantage of those entrepreneurial energies that Angela was talking about? And do they have access to full rights as workers, which is something that comprehensive immigration reform will deliver? And there, I think we’re talking about measuring equality of opportunity.
Fantastic. Angela, you want to take it away with your comments?
Angela Glover Blackwell
Yes. A couple of the questions had to do with the power structures at institutions that already know that we have a problem in this nation regarding full participation and what must make us think that anything is going to change or won’t ñ or will be so incremental that we won’t make change in time. I think that is the big question, which is why I’m so glad that so many of you are on this call and that we’re having this conversation. I thought that the one slide that we put up that showed that by 2018, 45% of all jobs will require an associate’s degree and yet, only 27% of African-Americans, 26% of US-born Latinos, and 14% of foreign-born Latinos had it. That really tees up a conversation about what the nation needs in order to be able to lead, to be economically strong, to be able to both produce and consume so that the economy is strong. I have always personally, from the time I finished college, been involved in these issues of creating greater opportunity, but I have never seen a time in which that agenda was so tied to the national agenda. We need to do a couple of things, all of those of us who care about spreading this word. We need to help people to understand how rapidly our demographics are changing. We need to really take a look at things like what are the workforce needs going forward, but also we really need to understand what it means to operate in a global economy and how important it is that we realize the extraordinary asset that we have. It is such an asset to be a world nation at a time when the global economy really is the place where competition and engagement is taking place, but it’s not enough just to be a world nation in terms of diversity. We have to have that diversity reflected up and down in terms of our leadership. So we need to help all of the people in the nation understand that by creating pathways to opportunity, everybody benefits. In his State of the Union Address, the President of the United States spoke in February about the need to consciously develop ladders of opportunity. There’s another major initiative going on in the nation called Opportunity Nation that is really pulling together business leaders and civic leaders all across the nation to look at what we can do to speed up the development of young people, particularly those who are being left behind, so that they have the education and the skills that they need, but as we open up these conversations, it becomes pretty clear that when we address problems for those who are most vulnerable in society, we really address them effectively for everyone. Our educational system needs to be improved for everyone. As we make sure that no one’s left behind in that system, we ensure that everyone who’s in it gets benefits. We know that we are slipping on the world stage in terms of health and well-being and when you have a population that has a lot of health problems, that has a huge impact on the economy in terms of people’s ability to work, in terms of the money we have to spend on poor health. Many people who are black and Latino are disproportionately suffering from disease and obesity and heart disease and things like that. If we improve the health and well-being of those who are most vulnerable, the health and well-being of the nation improves and economic well-being improves. We have to tell America a new story about itself, one that embraces the demographic shift as an opportunity and an asset and one that realistically looks at what kind of economy we need to be competitive in the global economy and taps that asset for that competitiveness.
Fantastic. This is an excellent segue into my next question that I just received from Laura. How do you see the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act fit into your concept of equity since you’re already talking about health and obesity issues?
Angela Glover Blackwell
The Affordable Care Act represents an amazing opportunity to advance the national agenda of health and well-being and to make sure that it is implemented in a way that those who suffer most from health disparities in the nation also can benefit, and so we need to make sure that everybody is having access to the benefits, but here’s just one example. We know that what we have to do is invest in prevention. We would not have to spend all the money at the disease end of the health equation if we spent more resources to make sure that babies come here healthy and really reduce our infant mortality rate. If we didn’t have so many diseases that are preventable and associated with obesity ñ heart disease, hypertension, diabetes ñ and in order to be able to invest in prevention, we have to invest in prevention That means that we need people who live in communities who are helping their neighbors to understand how to improve their eating habits, how to get women to prenatal care, how to make sure that people who are living in communities and who are taking care of people who are older understand other things that they ought to be taking into those households so that the entire household begins to have information. We need to make sure that those jobs can be paid for through the affordable care act. We also need to make certain that the clinics and institutions that have been in community are strengthened during the Affordable Care Act implementation so that they remain strong and can be part of the fabric of community going forward, and so the Affordable Care Act is just one example like the one I talked about with infrastructure where every dollar we spend has to focus on the national imperative of improving the chances for those who are being left behind. It’s true for transportation, it’s true for health, it’s true for education, it’s true for anchor institutions, it’s true for businesses.
Fantastic, great, and that already touched on one question we had on gender and equality and the gender and inequality gap. I’m going to shift a little bit over to one question from Ronald White. Wouldn’t reorienting our national and state tax policies as well as budget priorities be extremely important in addressing inequality? Any reason why you didn’t emphasize this? Maybe Manuel or Charles?
It’s probably a question for Manuel. I have an answer to the question on housing, but…
Oh, great, we’ll get to that next, then. Manuel, any comments on tax policy?
Yeah, I think the point is very well taken and it’s absolutely a fundamental question to address, which is what should our national and state fiscal policy look like? Where should the tax incidence fall in ways that are fair but also remain competitive and certainly what does that mean in terms of the public spending that needs to be there? One of the reasons for the focus on metropolitan tools, the ways in which we think about public infrastructure, the ways in which we think about anchor institutions, and the ways in which we think about job training programs ñ by the way, those two things help deal with another question that was asked about the private sector because while there was a stress on public infrastructure spending and the ways in which we need to leverage procurement so that we make sure we’re maximizing economic opportunity, anchor institutions are often private institutions, things like universities and hospitals, etc., but working with them to ensure that they can maximize the economic potential particularly of low income areas is something that’s in their interest and something that’s in the community’s interest, and job training programs are generally things that service not the public sector but are things that help to train people for the private sector. So that said, why not talk more about the broad issues of tax and fiscal policy? Some of it has to [00:45:01] we’ve experienced in the field in terms of thinking about the politics of kind of making this vision a go forward. One thing I’ve found out talking is that when you lead by talking about the changing demographics, do you actually really gain the interest of business because when they see who the workforce is going to be, who the consumers are going to be, and they know from their own experience the importance of diversity, as Angela was mentioning, they get open to a conversation about the questions of fairness, inclusion, equity. We’ve also found that the argument gets a lot more traction at a metropolitan level to know the national level, and the reason why, I think, is that at a metropolitan level, people come more face-to-face, race-to-race, place-to-place so that they actually have to meet each other and do the kinds of agreements and consensus that they know is important to build the metropolitan region and the argument makes much more intuitive sense to them. It actually does make sense at a national level, as well, when you think about the enormous dysfunction that we currently have in our political system, how fragmented we are and how difficult it is to make even some of the simplest choices. I mean, the threat that we are not even going to be able to talk about gun safety in the Senate just is complete testimony to a system that is completely fragmented, separated, and dysfunctional, and so I think that those issues of task and tax and fiscal policy are absolutely crucial. They’re ones we probably should be talking more about, hopefully will be talking more about in Toronto, but it’s also reflective of the fact that we think that you need to build these understandings at a metro by metro level, although we need to do it quick because unless we actually move this understanding up to a state and federal level rapidly, you know this window of time for the right kind of investments in the future generation for the right kind of economy, that window of time is shrinking.
Yeah, great. Charles, do you want to pick it up on the housing policy issue?
Yeah, I really appreciate it Jan Visiah raised this question about the need for affordable housing and creating social equity. If you take a look at the stats on extreme housing cost burden, the number of very poor families and especially poor families of color who pay more than 30 or more than 50% of their income on housing and usually for substandard housing is absolutely shocking. Also the fact that only roughly 1 in 4 families who would qualify for federally subsidized affordable housing, which would limit it to no more than 30% of their income, is also ñ is a tremendous unmet need, and when you take a look and you add transportation costs to housing costs and you see that in some cases where there’s no appropriate mass transit that a household could be spending 60-65% of their total income merely on housing and transportation, it really limits their ability to afford all the other things we’ve come to be necessities or even opportunities in American society. The other fact is when affordable housing is built, it tends to be concentrated in certain areas, in inner-city neighborhoods, in areas of low opportunity, and there is definitely not enough housing, affordable housing within areas of high opportunity and jobs, and that creates I think a very, very difficult situation. It also, I think, ends up and helps separate American society and segregated on both economic and ethno-racial lines. Then they seem increasingly difficult for us to imagine America being a unified integrated place and helps reinforce the sense of separateness and division that unfortunately I think has taken hold over the last several decades.
Great, thank you. We have some time for a few more questions. One question that I can answer is someone asked if the slides will be available, and we will post them in PDF format on our website, CityMinded.org as well as a recording of the WebX so you can revisit it, share it with colleagues, and friends, so look for that on our website, CityMinded.org, and next question from Ulysses Bell is what significant implications emerge when the demographics are delineated to address urban versus rural community issues? I think this is an interesting one given that here at Meeting of the Minds, we’re very focused on urban issues, as well. So again, significant implications when the demographics are delineated around urban versus rural. Maybe, Manuel, you want to jump on that?
Well, I’ll say a quick word, but I know Policy Link has been doing a lot of work on this. I’m hoping Angela will jump in. So I mean, there’s ñ one of the things that’s kind of interesting is that the area where diversity has actually been increasing the most and where poverty has been on the biggest jump up, particularly concentrated poverty in the last two decades, is America’s suburbs So what’s happened, interestingly, is the places that have remained very white have been some of our rural areas, but also there’s places that definitely concentrated African-American, concentrated Native American, concentrated Latino populations in those rural areas, as well, and rural America has also had a very uneven experience during this last great shift in the economy. Some places have been left very far behind and very isolated. Other places have benefited from growth and agricultural commodities and also from of the, frankly, energy exploration activities that have gone on in those areas, as well. So it’s a very uneven experience and a very complicated one, and I know that Policy Link has been trying to make sure that its message of lifting up what works and making social equity an important part of the economy has not been a message confined to simply urban areas but that you’ve also done some great rural work, as well. So Angela?
Angela Glover Blackwell
Thanks, Manuel. Yes, we have always concentrated on rural areas as well as urban and suburban areas at Policy Link because we have been very concerned about poverty and the absence of opportunity, and it is not limited to urban areas. Manuel pointed out that poverty is growing in the suburban areas even faster than in urban areas, and rural areas have been left behind for decades. When people think about our rural communities, they often don’t ñ they often think of rural and agriculture but so many people who live in rural communities are working in big box stores, they’re working in places very similar to places where people in urban areas are working, or they’re not working at all because there’s so little economic activity. I mentioned in my presentation about infrastructure, the need for broadband in rural communities so that people who have ñ who are geographically isolated don’t need to be isolated from the economy, but one of the things about the shifting demographics is that when you think about the problems of those people who are going to become the new majority, they are not only happening with people who are Latino and black and Native American and [00:52:41]. These same issues turn up among white people in rural areas, among white people who have been devastated by the loss of job or the loss of a home, and when we suggest the equity agenda, we are not suggesting that we only focus on people of color. We are suggesting that we think of strategies that allow all to participate and prosper, underlining all, and so we are concerned about the absence of economic activity in urban inner-city communities and the absence in rural communities which is why one of the things we’ve done at Policy Link is really focus on food and getting more grocery stores and outlets for fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s an area of economic activity. It also improves health, and rural communities suffer as much from lack of access to food as in inner-city communities. Because of the extreme isolation, people are not growing their own food and they don’t live near a grocery store. Studies that have been done by the US Department of Agricultural actually underscore this and recent programs coming out are creating opportunities for economic development around food in rural and in urban communities, but what I want to say and hope everyone remembers is that the agenda that will allow people of color who are becoming the majority to reach their full potential. That same agenda is the agenda the nation has been waiting for so that everybody can participate and prosper. The rural community is a wonderful example of that but we could all think of examples where the kinds of strategies that we’ve been talking about don’t just improve the lives of people of color; they improve the lives of all Americans.
Fantastic, great. Charles, you have anything to add to that?
No, that’s fine. I hope we have a chance to tackle a couple of other questions before we close out in about four minutes.
Yeah, do you want to moderate those last questions?
Well, I’d like to address one very, very quick and one very specific question from Jack Grey regarding the HUD Section 3 program, which is an important tool, as Jack mentioned, to help residents of particular areas gain jobs that are under redevelopment. I think it is a tool that has been used but it certainly has not been used to its fullest potential and offline, I’d be happy to have a longer and more in-depth conversation with him about what’s been done and who’s been doing it best.
Angela Glover Blackwell
There’s one thing I would add is out of HUD, the choice program really is taking advantage of Section 3 to make sure it gets utilized. I see that Jack is very familiar with Section 3, so he probably knows about the choice program, as well.
Great, and Angela, I think there was a question on if someone wants to get ñ Jack wanted to get in touch with someone at Policy Link so who should he call?
Angela Glover Blackwell
He should just go to the website and pose a question, and lots of people will chime in, I’m sure. The website is full of information, yes.
Great, perfect. Charles, anything else?
Angela Glover Blackwell
One thing I wanted to comment on was incarceration. It’s a huge problem. We incarcerate in the United States more people than anyplace else in the world. It has become obvious that this country cannot continue. It has become too expensive to keep it up and as we’re thinking about getting people out of incarceration, we need to have strategies for them to be able to participate in the economy as they come back. We need to stop closing off almost all job opportunities to people who have been formally incarcerated and make sure we’re creating pathways for them to participate and prosper, as well.
I want to stress that issue, too. The United States has a little bit less than 5% of the world’s population, though we’ve got 25% of the world’s prisoners. There’s something wrong with that, and prison population has grown between six- and eight-fold over the last 30 years. There’s been a bit of a tapering off in the last couple of years, and the reason is that the economic irrationality of successive incarceration has become apparent. It’s become apparent in terms of the cost of prison-building and prison maintenance, but where it should become apparent is in the loss of human capital, as well, because as Angela mentions, a lot of people are being shut out now when there’s no path back to the labor market. We’re not really investing in the appropriate kind of reentry programs, and this is something that’s particularly important for the African-American male population in terms of thinking about how to generate economic success for people who’ve gotten tangled up in criminal justice system and are coming back to communities and wanting to be able to not go back into that system again.
Great, I’m really glad you guys brought that up. Well, I’m sorry we didn’t get to everyone’s questions. There’s some amazing questions, and I’m really encouraged to see such participation on these issues. We had about 255 participants today, which I think is a great number and really speaks to the fact that this is an important issue that probably isn’t being discussed enough. So I hope everyone enjoyed today and I just want to encourage everybody to come and join the conversation, the continuing conversation on these issues. In September, we’re holding our annual event, Meeting of the Minds event in September 9, 10, 11 in Toronto and you can find more information on the event on our website, and we’d love to see all of you to bring these topics up and continue this conversation because an hour is never enough, and our website is CityMinded.org. So that concludes out session for today. Thank you everybody for participating, Angela, Manuel, and Charles, fantastic job, and just a reminder that a short survey will pop up once you close your browser. We’d greatly appreciate all of your feedback and we just want to say thanks again, and everyone have a wonderful day. It’s 10 AM, so we’ll have to conclude. Thanks, everybody.
Organized by Meeting of the Minds. Presented by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.