Tag Archives: MLK

Why does black opportunity matter for the future of the US economy?

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):

  1. 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”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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”

  1. 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.

The Battle for Civil Rights is a Never-ending One

Today, we remember a man who will forever be linked to the phrase “civil rights.”  A man who’s actions and leadership inspired millions of Americans not only to ask themselves a question that sorely needed asking: “Why am I not considered equal to my fellow citizens?”, but to take action towards eliminating such a question from the minds of future generations.  Today, 51 years after his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, despite all that Martin Luther King and the movement he inspired accomplished, it appears that many do not yet consider his dream to be a reality.

A recent poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News revealed that “a majority of African-American adults—52%—said they strongly disagreed” with the statement that “America is a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.  As a relatively privileged white male who has rarely, if ever, experienced conflicts of inequality first-hand, I find this figure quite disheartening – evidence that the bubble that is my life is not even close to representing the true state of society.  Sure, I’m well-aware that my experiences are far from prototypical and that I have been sheltered from much of the inequality that is still present in the United States today, but the sheer magnitude of that figure – that over half of African Americans can strongly disagree about a statement of racial equality – brings me to reevaluate the way I have perceived civil equality in America my entire life.

The issue of civil rights has lied, for the most part, dormant for the majority of my educated life.  I have always told myself that racism was a thing of the past, that it was only a matter of time before newer generations like my own would grow up to replace the older generations that still held on to racist beliefs (in the same way that new generations of atheists and agnostics are replacing those who held religious beliefs, as pointed out by an article by the Pew Research Center), but perhaps that is not the case at all.  Perhaps racism is not dying of natural causes, and must be addressed head on by both my generation and those of the future.  Recent issues, namely the slaying of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, have allowed the issue of civil rights to re-emerge into the spotlight that it has neglected to capture for much of my lifetime.   Even as my generation attempts to address the issue of racism in America, new civil rights issues are emerging.  The information era has brought with it new civil rights questions, such as: does the government (read: NSA) have the authority to monitor my communications, even if it is for the protection of my country (what if the Charlie Hebdo incident could have been prevented by tighter information surveillance?).  Nevertheless, it is only natural that we should solve the issues at hand before we devote our attention to new ones.  In that regard, even though I try to treat all my fellow humans with the same degree of sympathy and respect, I feel as if I am not doing enough.