Bloomberg: Opinion | America Needs a Government Wealth Program

Bloomberg, August 12, 2020: Opinion | America Needs a Government Wealth Program

Americans are deeply attached to the idea of equality of opportunity — that if people don’t always end up with the same outcomes, then at least they should start at the same place and each get their fair shot. In practice, of course, this is impossible to achieve. Some people’s parents, neighborhoods, and other circumstances of birth give them enormous initial advantages over others. So U.S. policies are generally committed to creating a level playing field — public education, need-based financial aid, and so on.

Family wealth provides one kind of opportunity that no amount of education can redistribute. Wealth can provide capital for a business, buy a home, or fund an education. But most of all, it’s a cushion against risk. Now that health and financial risks are rising for so many low-income Americans, it’s time to think of government policies to make wealth more accessible to all.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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