For Martin Luther King Jr. day, I want to introduce the recent blog post by Richard V. Reeves as one evidence shows why black opportunity really matters for the US economy. He gives five facts depict how far we still have to go in terms of black opportunity (with some excerpts from his blog post):
- Half of Black Americans Born Poor Stay Poor
“Upward mobility from the bottom of the income distribution is much less likely for black than white Americans”
- Most Black Middle Class Kids Are Downwardly Mobile
“Seven out of ten black Americans born into the middle quintile fall into one of the two quintiles below as adults.”
- Black Wealth Barely Exists
“The median wealth of white households is now 13 times greater than for black households –the largest gap in a quarter century, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.”
- Most Black Families Headed by Single Parent
“Black children are much more likely to be raised in a single-parent household, and as our own research suggests”
- Black Students Attend Worse Schools
“black students make up 16 percent of the public school population, but the average black student attends a school that’s 50 percent black.”
While people would agree that all five facts are important from many different perspectives, I have one specific reason that solving these problems can be a key for the US economic success in the future: potential growth rate. In “The Demise of U.S. Economic Growth: Restatement, Rebuttal, and Reflections”, Robert J. Gordon expects US potential growth rate is going to be far lower in the future, compared to a 2.0 percent average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita between 1891 and 2007. Specifically, he introduces “four headwinds” which are primary causes of his pessimistic forecast of the US economy: demographic shifts, educational attainment, inequality and national debts.
One may notice that those headwinds introduced by Gordon are closely related to the five facts given by Reeves. For example, if black people’s mobility would be improved and their wealth would grow fast enough to reduce inequality, that will achieve a higher income growth for bottom 99 percent of the income distribution in the US. Similarly, if black students will attend better school, that will surely take average educational attainment of American higher, thus productivity growth will also become higher than otherwise. Thus, more black opportunities could make the US potential growth higher.
Conclusion: if the both facts and arguments introduced above are correct, bringing more opportunities to black people should become a real interest of all Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. would be glad to see the US economic prosperity achieved by more opportunities brought to black people.