Report: Closing Racial Divides Would Also Provide Economic Jolt

Gross state product would increase by $25 billion over five years if Massachusetts closed its racial divide in wages, housing, investments, and wealth, according to a new report.

The business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said its 29-page report marks its first exploration of the issue and statistically documents inequities in wealth, income and employment, education, criminal justice, and health care.

If Black and Hispanic residents graduated from college at the same rate as white peers, the report said, Massachusetts would realize $20 billion over a decade in increased tax revenues and reduced public-assistance spending.

The report found that high school dropout rates for Hispanic students in Massachusetts are four times as high as those for white students and more than double those of Black students. It tracked a median income for Black Boston residents that averaged 45 percent of that for white residents.

In the Boston metropolitan statistical area, the median net worth of a white household was $247,500 in 2014, and $8 for a Black household, the report said, citing Federal Reserve Bank of Boston research.

In the Los Angeles, Miami, Tulsa and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, the median net worth for Black households in the same time period averaged $4,800, a figure the report characterizes as "astonishingly low, yet still substantially higher than in the Boston MSA."

Presenting the report during a virtual event Wednesday morning, MTF President Eileen McAnneny said its data "documents the pervasiveness of racial disparities in almost every facet of our society" and that those disparities, in many instances, "are more prevalent in Massachusetts than they are in the nation."

"I would say the lack of sufficient progress, despite the many policies and resources devoted to closing the racial divide, is pretty striking," she said. "The report makes clear that new approaches will be necessary if we want to substantially advance the cause of racial equity and economic opportunity for all."

As it works toward more comprehensive and authoritative analyses, the foundation hopes its initial report will establish a baseline to evaluate efforts to address racial inequities, a subject that lawmakers are weighing across policy talks.

McAnneny said the foundation plans to convene an advisory committee to expand future editions of its report, "Closing the Racial Divide in the U.S. and Massachusetts: A Baseline Analysis."

"We recognize and acknowledge that this report is not as comprehensive as it could and must be, and many indices of disparity and inequity that the Foundation wanted to be able to calculate and present we found do not exist," she said in a statement.

In researching and compiling the report, MTF found "numerous shortcomings" in available data, McAnneny said. She said data on racial disparities is often not collected on a regular basis and at times is "not as comprehensive as it should be."

MTF and The Boston Foundation will work together with other stakeholders to develop a "comprehensive catalog of information that can measure racial disparities and identify data gaps," McAnneny said, and that catalog will be available to all researchers to help gauge progress in gap-closing efforts and measure the impacts of private- and public-sector initiatives.

"You can't have effective advocacy without data, and in the past we've had sort of a blind spot on racial equitable data," The Boston Foundation's Keith Mahoney said.


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