Your Equitable Economy Holiday Guide

This holiday season, shoppers across the United States are expected to spend over $616 billion, an amount higher than the Gross Domestic Product of most other countries. Despite their flat wages, Americans are generous when it comes to gift giving, and the sheer amount of our spending creates power to shift the economy toward equitable growth. Here are four ways to put your hard-earned dollars to work for equity this holiday season:

  1. Shop locally. On average, for every $100 spent at a national chain store, only $14 stays in the local economy. In contrast, for every $100 spent at independent retailers, $48 — more than three times as much — stays in the local economy. Likewise, shopping locally creates over four times as many jobs as shopping at online retail giants like Amazon. Supporting local businesses helps build community wealth, encourage entrepreneurship, and create jobs locally. Shopping locally can also provide valuable support to businesses owned by people of color and women and create a reality where business owners reflect the makeup of the communities they support.
  2. Shop ethically. Not every business values profit over people. Many businesses make it a priority to treat their workers well, employ environmentally sustainable practices, and help build stronger communities. For dining out this holiday season or gift certificate ideas, the Restaurant Opportunities Center has a National Diner’s Guide that provides information on wages, benefits, and the promotion practices of the most popular restaurants in at least nine major cities. Certified benefit corporations voluntarily meet high standards of governance, workforce treatment, environmental impact, and community involvement — you can find a full list of these companies here. There are also union and other ethical shopping guides.
  3. Shop at businesses owned by people of color and women. Entrepreneurship rates among people of color and women are high — African American women in particular are starting new businesses at six times the national average. Yet, these businesses often struggle to grow and stay in business. Deliberately shopping at businesses owned by people of color and women helps provide steady demand and business stability, which in turn, helps these businesses thrive. Supporting businesses of color leads to job creation in communities of color because minority-owned businesses tend to have more diverse workforces than White-owned businesses. Finding these businesses often takes just a little bit of work. Some places to start: Take a look at this list of 50 gift ideas from Black-owned businesses. Or this Silicon Valley Latino business directory.  Many states and regions have directories listing businesses that are owned by people of color or women that you can look up.
  4. Give an alternate gift. Making a donation or volunteering in someone’s honor can help support organizations that work year-round to build a more equitable economy, such as youth job-training programs and worker organizing centers. See the story above for organizations that were covered in America’s Tomorrow over the last year, or browse our archives for ideas of organizations to support.

As the holiday season approaches its final days, there is much we can do as consumers to help build a more equitable economy. May this holiday season bring time for both reflection and action to advance equity in the New Year.

Read the rest of the December 22, 2014 America’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model issue.