Economic growth is often seen as an antidote to poverty (e.g. rising tides lift all boats)—but increasing inequality in regions across the country underscores the fact that the benefits of growth are often narrowly shared.
In most regions, income and racial inequality are a legacy of myriad land-use, housing, education, tax, and economic development decisions that have disproportionately benefited wealthier, white households over lower-income and household of color. For example, for decades, public and private investment in regional transportation systems, infrastructure, and housing fueled the development of suburbs where racially restrictive covenants explicitly kept out black buyers; while redlining minimized investment in the urban core, where households of color remained.
Today, we see the reverse dynamic: Public and private investment is flowing back into many inner cities, increasing land and housing prices and disrupting social networks that act as the glue to already marginalized communities. This “reinvestment” is fueling a diaspora of community residents, especially black and Latino families, who can no longer afford to stay in their rapidly changing neighborhoods.
But where, when, and how can we have frank civic conversations about who benefits from regional economic decisions—where diverse stakeholders can come together, unpack complex issues, and explore lasting solutions?