Race In The Heartland

Image (1) Iowa-Policy-Project.jpg for post 20566

A new study by the Iowa Policy Project and other policy groups in the Midwest study the progress of race relations in the Midwest since the high water mark of Civil Rights action in the 1960s. The findings show progress is sorely lacking.

Thursday the Iowa Policy Project in conjunction with Policy Matters Ohio, COWS, and the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) issued a major work studying how race is treated in the Midwest along with policy recommendations to address the perceived problems.

Midwesterners seem to feel that the area’s emphasis on individual achievement helps to make citizens of the Midwest less focused on racial differences that seem to be more sharply evident in other areas of the country. Like most assumptions this assumption falls apart under scrutiny.

The report on Race in the Heartland is authored by Colin Gordon of the Iowa Policy Project. Using objective measurements to take a picture of where the Midwest lands in relation to the rest of the country Gordon and associates frequently finds that the Midwest falls quite short. 

Here are a few paragraphs from the executive summary that give readers insights to the detailed study that follows.  

“A half-century removed from the high-tide of the civil rights movement, progress on racial equity has slowed or stalled on many fronts. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the twelve states of the Midwest region, where racial disparities in economic opportunity and economic outcomes are wider than they are in other regions, and policy interventions designed to close those gaps are meager. Race in the Heartland: Equity, Opportunity, and Public Policy in the Midwest examines the roots of those racial disparities, documents their extent and impact, and proposes a range of policy solutions. 

  1. A Troubled History:

We trace the origins of racial inequality in the Midwest to the deep imprint of racial segregation, which concentrated the regions’ African American population in relatively few urban counties—and then erected a forbidding architecture of residential segregation within those urban settings. In turn, the historical arc of economic opportunity saw African Americans flock to new opportunities in the industrializing Midwest in the middle years of the last century, and then be disproportionately hit by the deindustrialization that followed. 

  1. A Legacy of Inequality

Taken together, these historical patterns of segregation and uneven economic opportunity—alongside continuing patterns of discrimination—yielded a legacy of deep and lasting racial disparity and inequality. Race in the Heartland draws on a wide array of data sources to document these disparities— highlighting both the yawning gap between black and white outcomes or opportunities, and the exceptional or outlying position of the Midwestern states on these metrics. 

We examine not just conventional economic outcomes (wages, incomes, poverty rates), but other dimensions of opportunity and security including wealth, health outcomes, homeownership, and incarceration. For each of these, we calculate both the gap and ratio of black to white outcomes, and the relative position of the Midwestern states among their peers from other regions. Almost without exception, we find wide gaps or disparities across the Midwest. And we find Midwestern states crowding the bottom ranks of any state-by-state comparison. “

Thus the study begins. What follows is a detailed look at what the current picture is and how the Midwest evolved to this state. The very short of the current picture is that it is not good.

Gordon ends the study with detailed policy suggestions to address the inequalities that were found. This would be an excellent read for anyone in a policy making role whether in government, education, industry, non-profit or religious work. 

Given that our society tends to react to day-to-day issues rather than doing real long term planning my guess is that unfortunately this study will be ignored. It really should be mandatory reading especially for those in the legislature or on city councils.

Once again the Iowa Policy Project has produced outstanding work that deserves to become part of the discourse for for policy.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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