When It Comes to Inclusive Economic Growth, LA County (and State) Failing Miserably

Photo by Brian Addison.

Yesterday, it was announced that Long Beach and Los Angeles are in the nation’s ten most diverse cities. The day before? Long Beach was deemed SoCal’s most serviced and accessible city.

But this is our current status—and a damning report that looks at how metro areas are keeping that diversity and accessibility alive for the future shows that we are failing miserably not only at the county level but statewide.

In fact, of the 100 metro areas studied by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, San Francisco was the sole Californian city to achieve any form of advancement in becoming more inclusive when it comes to how money is dispersed and to whom. Measuring “inclusive growth”— in other terms, how we are engaging and creating policies that slim the wage gap—is important, especially in California, because we are home to the nation’s slimmest racial wage gap—and it’s not something to crow home about.

Riverside’s black households earn 72 cents on every dollar made by white households in the same city while in Twin Cities, home to the nation’s worst racial wage gap, black households 42 cents to the dollar compared to white households.

“Despite improving economic conditions during the 2010 to 2015 period, most metro areas still face gaps between headline growth and bottomline prosperity and inclusion,” said report author Richard Shearer. “For many, a full recovery from the Great Recession remained out of reach. The economic trends of this period suggest that if leaders wish to sustain support for policies that support growth, those policies must incorporate deliberate efforts to ensure that more people, businesses, and communities are able to share in the benefits of economic growth and prosperity.”

Ultimately, inclusive economic growth and prosperity proved elusive for most of the nation’s large metropolitan areas in recent years. While every single one of the nation’s 100 largest metros added jobs and output from 2010 to 2015—bolstering the strength of young firms and entrepreneurial and already-wealthy tech economies—only  four of the those 100 metros—Albany, Austin, Charleston, Denver—achieved growth, prosperity, and inclusion that benefited a majority of workers of all races and ethnicities.

The report stated:

Measured one way—by improving the employment rate, median earnings, and relative poverty—only 11 of the 30 metro areas achieved inclusive economic outcomes: Albany, Austin, Charleston, Columbus, Dayton, Denver, Oklahoma City, Omaha, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Worcester. Similarly, only eight (8) of those 30 metro areas managed to improve inclusive economic outcomes for both whites and people of color: Albany, Austin, Charleston, Denver, Des Moines, Houston, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. The upshot, however, is that from 2010 to 2015, four (4) of the nation’s 100 largest metro areas (Albany, Austin, Charleston, Denver) achieved growth, prosperity, and inclusion that benefited a majority of workers of all races and ethnicities.

There is, however, a silver lining: Los Angeles/Long Beach’s poverty rate falling two points, largely due to strong job growth in sectors with less specialized skill requirements, such as retail, hospitality, and construction. These jobs create opportunities for folks that lift them out of poverty; however, as anti-development NIMBYs garner more and more traction politically, their initiatives stifle these precise jobs.

Combine this with a failing wage gain amongst the people who need it most and it spells a recipe for increased displacement and further marginalization of the already-marginalized. Among the 72 large metro areas where the rate of relative poverty decreased, 62 of those metros saw a decrease for whites while 58 saw it fall for people of color.

“Although improvements in local labor markets created new employment opportunities for most types of people, wage gains were less widespread,” Shearer said.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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