"It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth. When you stifle human potential, when you don't invest in new ideas, it doesn't just cut off the people who are affected; it hurts us all. We know that investments in education and infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase growth. They increase good jobs, and they create new wealth for all the rest of us."
-Former President Bill Clinton at the 2012 Democratic National Convention
I was thrilled to hear these words from our former president at last week's DNC. The idea that equity is not only a moral imperative but also an economic one is catching on, and it's about time. Connecting those most left behind by the "you're on your own" economy to good jobs that lead to careers is not only the right thing to do, it's what we need to do to build a strong, sustainable 21st century American economy--one in which everyone can participate and prosper.
At PolicyLink, we have been saying that equity is the superior growth model to summarize this idea. Our nation's changing demographics make the economic imperative of equity and inclusion even clearer.
We are undergoing a dramatic demographic transformation in which the very same racial and ethnic groups that have been most excluded are now driving our population growth, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Over the last decade, a whopping 92 percent of our population growth came from Latinos, Asians, African Americans, Native Americans, and other communities of color. And this trend holds true across the map, in big cities as well as in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. By 2042, we will be a majority people-of-color nation.
At the same time, communities of color face persistent barriers to accessing high-quality education, health, and good jobs. As we become a more diverse nation, these obstacles for communities of color will impede our national economic achievement. For example, by 2018, 45 percent of all jobs will require at least an associate's degree, but among today's workers only 27 percent of African Americans, 26 percent of U.S.-born Latinos, and 14 percent of Latino immigrants have achieved this level of education. If we do not raise education levels among these growing groups, we will not meet the needs of American employers and we will lose our edge in the global economy.
The idea that equity is good for the economy is also increasingly supported by economic research. Last year, the International Monetary Fund released a study that found that inequality matters a great deal when it comes to a country's economic growth: in their analysis of more than a hundred countries, for every 10 percent decrease in inequality, the length of the country's economic growth cycle increased by 50 percent. Recent books by top economists including Joseph Stiglitz and Daron Acemoglu have also made the case that inequality hampers economic growth and prosperity.
To succeed in the future, today's leaders must invest in the growing diverse communities that are our future workers and leaders. Failure to confront rising poverty and the persistent barriers to success faced by people of color will result in a further erosion of the American Dream for generations to come. Thank you, President Clinton, for acknowledging this reality. I hope that this is one idea that leaders from across the political spectrum can agree on.
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