“Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and how to Change the Rules” is a new report released by The Applied Research Center (ARC) and is unlike others I’ve read about the economy. I’ve written before about how people of color have been disproportionately affected by the recession, citing unemployment rates and pay gaps, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to highlight what is unique about the ARC report (PDF).
1. The report tackles the effects of racism on multiple areas of the economy: Racial discrimination has created disproportionate wages, has limited promotions and hires for people of color, and has been at the root of predatory subprime loans and foreclosure. These disparities have resulted in the loss of wealth and less income for people of color. The report covers more than unemployment rates, offering graphs and statistics on the relationship between employment security and unemployment by race, medium weekly earnings by occupation and gender, and other race-based salary disparities. One graph, for example, shows that blacks and Latinos with a Bachelor’s degree earn over $13,000 and $15,000 less, respectively, than whites with the same education. In focusing on the intersections of race, class and economic factors, we’re able to see just how people of color’s economic inequalities are caused by historic and current racial discrimination.
2. The report combines research with personal narratives: It’s easy to get lost in informative statistics – but one of the realities of the economic downturn and its affect on people of color is that it’s an extremely personal and painful experience for individuals who have lost their jobs and their homes. Sometimes we forget that when we read research. But when we see the names and hear the personal accounts of individuals such as Leo Shipman, a 24 year old black man who lost his job in Detroit and is trying to find the means to support himself and his three year old son, we feel the sense of loss and anxiety and urgency that graphs don’t provide. By reporting on the lives of individuals, the Applied Research Center has allowed emotion and personal voice to be factored into a larger conversation about socioeconomic and racial inequalities.
3. The report provides solutions: The accounts and facts provided by “Race and Recession” are overwhelming and frustrating, but it’s a bit of a relief to see the outline of policy solutions that are recommended by the report. Implementing Racial Equity Impact Assessments for policy, creating a comprehensive universal healthcare program, raising the minimum wage and placing an emphasis on green jobs are just a few ways in which we can begin to close the wealth gap between people of color and whites and begin to overcome the economic inequalities that have plagued marginalized communities for decades. The work that needs to be done seems infinite, but fighting for policy change and urging organizations and politicians to do the same is a step in the right direction.