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Beyond GDP: Future growth depends on addressing racial inequity

David Brancaccio Nov 7, 2013
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The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent during the third quarter, the fastest pace since the third quarter of 2012, the Commerce Department reported today. It beat the 2.5 percent growth in the Spring, and was better than economists’ predictions.

But standards of living do not necessarily track with GDP. Many people can be doing worse, even as GDP climbs. A nation research and advocacy group says we should think about growth beyond quarterly reports from the government, and more in terms of what they refer to as “equity.” And, no, they’re not talking about stocks.

“When I use the term ‘equity,’ I mean just and fair inclusion,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. “We have been leaving have been leaving too many people behind. And it’s not only hurting them, it’s hurting our economy.”

By 2043, the United States will be a “majority minority” country. Glover Blackwell the future of the country depends on the economy being able to respond to this ongoing shift.

“If this nation wants to have a middle class, be competitive in the global economy, we need to make sure that the people who are going to be the future are ready for the future,” she says.

Glover Blackwell says her argument isn’t just a moral one. There’s economic evidence as well.

“Inequality is bad for growth. The International Monetary Fund did a study of one hundred nations, and they found that for every 10 percent increase in equality, there was a fifty percent sustained, longer period of growth.”

But in a country where the gap between rich and poor is growing wider, and significantly higher numbers of blacks and Latinos live in poverty, what can be done to fix these deeply ingrained problems?

“We need to make sure that people can get jobs that support their families,” Glover Blackwell says. “Education at every level. Preschool through college attendance and careers, and we need to remove the barriers.”

Glover Blackwell says that addressing racial economic inequality will benefit the entire economy, and country.

“If we had eliminated racial inequities in 2011, the GDP would have been $1.2 trillion higher. Getting people in jobs that pay family supporting family supporting wages, having people educated so that they can get the best jobs that their abilities will allow them to be able to do. These things allow people to create wealth for the nation.”

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