A Better Future

By Jackie Cushman

March 22, 2018 5 min read

When we see a problem in society, we want to fix it. Often the theoretical solution appears as a large government program, administered and funded through Washington, D.C. It is intellectually appealing and provides that ability to gather large amounts of funds to be applied to the problem. While the theory of taxing individuals and corporations and administering programs nationally might be appealing, the outcome is often vastly different.

Taken to the extreme, total government control can create a collapse of a country. The Socialist government of Venezuela is currently experiencing rapid inflation, high unemployment and a fleeing middle class. "Unemployment will reach 30 percent and prices on all types of goods in the country will rise 13,000 percent this year," wrote Patrick Gillespie for CNN Money in January. "This year will mark the third consecutive year of double-digit contractions in Venezuela's gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity. The nation's GDP declined 16 percent in 2016, 14 percent last year and it's projected to fall 15 percent this year."

Government control does not work.

In the mid 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson unveiled a set of domestic programs to create a "Great Society." These included Civil Rights programs and a War on Poverty. Since then, some progress has been made.

As a nation, we've spent billions of dollars attempting to fix a problem. Maybe we should recognize that maybe the money has provided temporary relief, but the question remains — how can we better shape the future?

According to a recently released research paper, "Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective," by Raj Chetty, Stanford University and National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Nathaniel Hendren, Harvard University and NBER; Maggie R. Jones, U.S. Census Bureau; and Sonya R. Porter, U.S. Census Bureau, the difference in intergenerational economic mobility between whites and blacks is due to the difference in the trajectory of males versus females between generations.

"The intergenerational gap in individual income is 10 percentiles for black men across the parental income distribution — similar to the overall gap in family income. In contrast, black women earn about 1 percentile more than white women conditional on parent income." Based on their findings, they focused their research on males, and variables that reduced the intergenerational income gap.

What they found is not surprising. "Black boys do especially well in neighborhoods with a large fraction of fathers at home in black families and low levels of racial bias among whites." Based on the research, it is more important for boys to have fathers around than for girls.

Unfortunately, "very few black boys grow up in such areas in the U.S. Four percent of black children currently grow up in areas with a poverty rate below 10 percent and more than half of black fathers present. In contrast, 62.5 percent of white children grow up in low-poverty areas with more than half of white fathers present."

Their conclusion: "Policies focused on improving the economic outcomes of a single generation — such as cash transfer programs or minimum wage increases — can narrow the gap at a given point in time, but are less likely to have persistent effects unless they also affect intergenerational mobility." These programs will not better shape the future.

"Policies that reduce residential segregation or enable black and white children to attend the same schools without achieving racial integration within neighborhoods and schools would also likely leave much of the gap in place, since the gap persists even among low-income children raised on the same block." Conclusion — what we have been doing does not work for improving the future.

What might work? "Efforts that cut within neighborhoods and schools and improve environments for specific racial subgroups, such as black boys, may be more effective in reducing the black-white gap. Examples include mentoring programs for black boys, efforts to reduce racial bias among whites, or efforts to facilitate social interaction across racial groups within a given area."

While it would be easier and simpler to simply send in money to fix the problem, the fact is that it will take individual effort, personal interaction and community involvement to make real change happen. The question we should be asking ourselves is how we can make this happen. How can we better shape our future?

To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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