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The End of "Them?" Strong Public Support for Closing the Racial Equity Gap

David Callahan

Americans are starting to get that the U.S. needs to invest more resources in closing the racial equity gap as the nation grows more diverse.

A few decades ago, when U.S. was still overwhelming white, investing in racial minorities was a tough sell. Now, with the country only 63 percent white and heading fast to a majority-minority future, Americans increasingly understand how interdependent people of all races and ethnicities have become. 

That's one key finding of new public opinion research conducted by the Center for American Progress and PolicyLink and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. 

The study finds:

Americans strongly support a new equity agenda designed to reduce racial and ethnic inequality and create the conditions for everyone to participate in the economy. More than 7 in 10 Americans—71 percent—support “new steps to reduce racial and ethnic inequality in America through investments in areas like education, job training, and infrastructure improvement,” compared to the just 27 percent who are opposed. This includes 63 percent support among whites. In addition, 54 percent of Americans say such steps would help the economy overall, compared to the 10 percent who think they would hurt the economy. Whites are 49 percent and 11 percent, respectively, on the same question. Finally, 61 percent of Americans say they would be willing to invest “significantly more public funds to help close [the] gap in college graduation rates” between black and Latino students and white students, compared to the 36 percent who say they are not willing to make such investments. Again, while whites are lower than minorities in their support, they still endorse this proposition by a margin of 53 percent to 46 percent.

All this is good news. As I have written here often, the interdependence between between groups is particularly profound when you consider how much retired white Baby Boomers will depend on a largely non-white labor force in coming decades to keep social insurance programs solvent. If that labor force is ill-educated and not productive, they won't be able to generate enough wealth to keep the Boomers from hard times. 

My guess is that many of the whites who support more investments in people of color don't understand the stakes in quite this way, or are so self-interested in their thinking. More likely they just intuitively realize that we can't let a growing swath of the population down if we are to succeed as a nation.