All-In-Nation: Vision for 2050

January 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Sometime around 2040 the U.S. will become a majority people of color nation, according to census projections. Already the majority of our children under the age of one are of color. These demographic shifts are underway and yet racial disparities persist in areas including educational achievement, health, and financial wealth. PolicyLink and the Center for American Progress have teamed up on a project called All-In Nation: An America that Works for All, to make the case that “strong communities of color are critical to America’s economic future.”

As part of this project, they commissioned a nation-wide poll to find out what people in the U.S. know about the demographic shifts, and whether people would support policies that would reduce racial disparities. A few of their findings were:

  • People are hyperaware of the increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the US population and consistently overestimate the percentage of folks of color who are living in the U.S. now as well as the predicted percentage for 2050.
  • Overall, opportunities presented by increasing diversity resonated with people more than concerns about increasing diversity (good news!).
  • When asked “would you support or oppose new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in America through investments in areas like education, job training, and infrastructure improvement?” 71% of people said yes (again, good news!). However, and not surprisingly, over 80% of Asians, Blacks, and Latinos said they would support these kinds of investments while 64% of Whites said they would support them.
  • When asked about willingness to invest significant public funds to address the racial gap in college graduation rates specifically, people were less enthusiastic. 61% of all respondents were willing, but only 53% of whites were willing to support these kinds of investments (hard for me to put a positive spin on this one…).

You can read more about the poll results here. I’m grateful for this research and the book these folks have put out, which you can download for free here. I’m left with a few questions after hearing the highlights of these poll results:

  • How might what people say about their openness to “diversity” differ from their behaviors? How might we take that difference between intention and impact into account as we work to build a shared investment among our neighbors and coworkers in equity agendas wherever we live and work?
  • As a white person, I worry that approximately half of us (according to this poll) are not wiling to support public investments to close the racial gap in college graduation rates. My guess is that this is explained partially by dominant cultural myths such as meritocracy (our individual achievements are based primarily or even solely on our talents), a dominant cultural norm that post-high school education is not a government responsibility, and a general lack of awareness about how much race and class still play a huge role in who has access to higher education and who doesn’t. Maybe all of that could fly when people were more easily able to achieve and maintain middle class status in the U.S. with a high school diploma, but we know that this is simply no longer true. How can we help each other see the merit in and economic necessity of making higher education truly accessible and affordable to all?

What’s your take? What are you wondering about?

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