So says Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He's the author of Just Growth, and most recently Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America's Metro Areas (which you can download here for free).
Last night at the central library he gave the lecture, "2035: Moving Towards and Equitable Future," which was basically the same one he gave last year at City Hall, in which he argues for the powers of inclusive growth.
There's a common notion that addressing income inequality is essentially a different project than addressing racial inequality. Based on his demographic research, Pastor flips that script, saying that addressing racial inequality is actually the best way to build and maintain a healthy economy.
Currently, black, Latino, and Asian populations are growing at several times the rate of white populations. By 2040, people of color will account for 54 percent of King county's population. But, Pastor argues, an increase in the population of POCs doesn't necessarily translate to economic prosperity for POCs.
Pastor cited a few statistics that drew audible gasps from the audience last night. In Seattle, 42 percent of black people under 18 years old live in poverty, and white household income is twice that of black household income. Nationwide, people of color have less access to quality healthcare and education, endure higher unemployment rates, earn lower salaries, and get jailed at higher rates than white people. This inequality, Pastor argues, is bad for growth.
According to Pastor, Seattle particularly suffers from what's known as the "Colorado paradox," which means that our economy looks good but it ain't good. We import a lot of people with college degrees who work at high-earning positions, but our economy is failing the people who were born and raised here, the "home-grown" population, as Pastor describes them.
To illustrate this point, Pastor showed that Seattle is "leading the country" when it comes to increasing the gap between the professional class (households at the 80th percentile of income distribution) and the working poor (households at the 20th percentile). We're "at the top" when it comes to increasing the gap between low wage job generation and affordable housing production. In last year's lecture, he elaborated on these numbers by saying that high wage jobs generate these low wage jobs: "Behind every software engineer is an army of nannies, gardeners, and service workers."
"Your challenge is to weave high tech with high need, innovation with inclusion," Pastor said.
After the lecture, he spoke with Ubax Gardheere, program director for Puget Sound Sage, and Diane Sugimura, director of City of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development. When asked what Seattle needs to do first to start solving some of these problems, Gardheere said that we need to get a "shared analysis." That is, we need to agree that income inequality is real and that intentionally including more people of color in the economy is, to speak broadly, the way to solve the problem.
We know the practical solutions, but we lack the political will to implement them, Pastor said, before rifling off more than a handful of policies, including but not limited to:
- inclusionary zoning
- linkage fees
- flood areas with high immigration concentrations with English-language classes
- job training for advanced manufacturing jobs
- better education
- push for smoother naturalizations processes
- section 8 vouchers
These are some of the concrete policies that municipalities need to implement in order to bring about a more inclusive economy. These aren't catch-all solutions, Pastor said, and certain strategies need to be tailored according to the needs of each disadvantaged community, but this is the kind of the stuff that needs to happen.
Some of these problems, especially the ones related to education funding, are particularly hard to solve in a political way given another shocking but dull-sounding statistic: the median age by race/ethnicity in the US.
The average age for white people: 42. For Latinos: 27. That's a generational gap. If the older generation doesn't see itself in the faces of the younger generation, Pastor said, then you see a decrease in funding for education. "Where generation gap is the biggest, spending per child is the lowest," Pastor said, before pointing to Arizona's enormous slashes to education to support his claim.
This is why, as Gardheere stressed over and over again last night, we need to think of dismantling structural racism as a practical and not a purely idealistic way to address income equality. This means standing with BLM to shut down Black Friday is a practical way to reduce income inequality. Fighting white supremacy is a practical way to reduce income inequality. As Pastor says, equity isn't just a lefty dream, "equity is the superior growth model."
In addition to these movements and measures, though, Pastor said we need to bring together activists and developers, business leaders and labor leaders, and begin to speak to the aspirations of our community, not just its anger and its anxieties.