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Giving Compass' Take:
• Stephen Menendian reviews three books that highlight how race still defines inequality in America.
• How long will it take to address the shortcomings of systemic political and economic inequality in America? What sort of segregation still persists in the U.S. today? How can you make an aggressive push for improvements to equity in American policy?
In a span of three months in 2017, three Richards— Reeves, Florida, and Rothstein—published three well-received books on inequality in America. The consensus policy agenda developed by the three Richards suggests not only the unfinished business of past generations, but also the unique challenges that confront our society today.
In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein draws upon the tradition of urban historians in telling a familiar, yet surprising story of government-sponsored residential segregation in the 20th Century. In this story, government mortgage and housing policy opened wealth-building opportunities for millions of white Americans while locking most African Americans in declining and decaying urban ghettos.
Richard Florida, best known for his evangelism and work on the “Creative Class,” writes a mea culpa of sorts in his book The New Urban Crisis. Explaining how “place itself had become the central organizing unit of the new knowledge-based economy,” Florida describes a new, equally troubling pattern. In this iteration, well-educated knowledge workers are returning to the urban core, displacing poor and lower skilled workers to the urban peripheries.
Not coincidentally, this theme is also the heart of Richard Reeves’ book, Dream Hoarders. Contrary to the well-known brandishments of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Reeves asks the reader to readjust their focus from the very top one percent of earners to a broader swath of upper-middle income households, roughly the top 20 percent. In almost every area of life, he argues, they are rigging the system to their advantage. In his view, the key mechanisms of “opportunity hoarding”, are “exclusionary zoning; unfair mechanisms influencing college admissions, including legacy preferences; and the informal allocation of internships.” For Reeves, “Each of these tilts the playing field in favor of upper middle-class children.”
Read the full article about policy agenda for inequality in America by Stephen Menendian at Othering & Belonging Institute.