If you knew you could do the right thing and personally benefit from it, would you do it? I am willing to bet most of us would.
Last week, the Center for American Progress and PolicyLink released a book, All-In Nation: An America That Works for All, which argues that if we reduced racial inequalities, we would benefit economically both individually and as a nation. The analysis shows that if Latinos and African-Americans would have closed the income gap with whites in 2011, average personal incomes would have been 8 percent higher; the national GDP would have increased by 1.2 trillion; 13 million people would have been lifted out of poverty; we would have an additional 192 billion in tax revenue and reduce the social security deficits in the long run by more than 10 percent.
Sounds like a good deal? You bet it does. Closing racial gaps is a win-win; there are no trade-offs, only positive outcomes.
The unsettling reality is that Latinos are not keeping pace with the educational demands to ensure the nation’s economic competitiveness, or their own.
- Vanessa Cárdenas
The new economic analysis in the book is relevant and important because of the changing demographics our country is undergoing. By 2043 the U.S. Census projects that the majority of people in the United States will be people of color – with the Latino community constituting the largest group. By 2050, Latinos will not only more than double in size from 50 million today to 110 million, they will also make up 30 percent of the labor force. These facts bring a new sense of urgency to closing the racial disparities our community faces. To put it simply, the future of the U.S. rests in the hands of communities of color, particularly Latinos.
And yet, the unsettling reality is that Latinos are not keeping pace with the educational demands to ensure the nation’s economic competitiveness, or their own. In 2012, 59 percent of the nation’s jobs required postsecondary education and training beyond high school. During the recession and recovery, only holders of bachelor’s degrees experienced positive job growth. Yet, in 2010, only 38 percent of Latinos had postsecondary education, compared to 68 percent of non-Hispanic whites. And while it is true that Latinos are entering college at higher rates than in the past, they are unfortunately enrolling in colleges and universities that are underfunded, overcrowded and nonselective.
This is why All In Nation, aside from providing economic data on the benefits of closing racial disparities, makes specific policy recommendations to address these gaps. The book presents policy recommendations not just for the education field but also in jobs, health, criminal justice and immigration, among others. The adoption of these policies will benefit not just the Latino community but all communities in our nation, and would go a long way in ensuring that the next generations of Americans are able to compete both at home and globally.
As our country changes demographically, Americans and its political leaders need to renew their commitment to rebuild and strengthen the ladder of opportunity rung by rung. We need preschool programs to reach those who need it most, qualified teachers to nurture the young and safe home environments and communities where families can thrive without fear. We need good jobs that pay living wages, financial support to access some form of higher education and, of course, immigration reform that legalizes the 11 million.
Fighting for and implementing these policies won’t be easy. But given the racial shifts, it is urgent and necessary to implement them. As citizens of this great nation and believers in its promise, we can make the change we need if we work together to achieve it and push our elected to do the same. It is time to close racial disparities, not only because it is morally right but also because it is in our best collective economic interest.
Vanessa Cárdenas is the co-editor of "All-In Nation" and Vice President of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress.