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Categorized As:
Regional Direction

Are We Committed to Inclusive Growth?

The Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago recently released a report entitled Our Equitable Future: A Roadmap for the Chicago Region, laying out a data-driven strategy for ensuring that all Chicagoans benefit from economic growth in Windy City.  In 2015, the City of Beaverton, Oregon released a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan, driven by a citywide Diversity Advisory Board.  The Brookings Institution has done a series of reports on the subject, including a 2017 study Committing to Inclusive Growth.  There is an emerging consensus in both academic and policy circles that dramatically uneven growth, gentrification that leads to displacement, large proportions of urban populations marginalized from the workforce, and so on, are not just morally wrong or politically problematic, but they are bad for the overall economic health and competitiveness of metropolitan areas.  Unfortunately, as Brookings noted in April 2017, while economic growth is powered by metropolitan areas, very few of them have grown in ways that share the growth inclusively or across racial and class lines.  


In Philadelphia, we have become increasingly aware of the massive gulf that divides the "haves" who reside in a few select neighborhoods, and the "have nots."  As our City experiences its most rapid growth in a generation, we are seeing rising levels of inequality as well as persistently high rates of poverty.  Displacement risk is rising in many neighborhoods, while others continue to suffer from disinvestment; too many Philadelphians have fallen to the margins of the workforce, while employers are challenged to find workers with the skills they need.  New research suggests that just under half of Philadelphians fail to earn enough to be considered economically self-sufficient.  Work in public health has uncovered life expectancy differentials within Philadelphia as dramatic as those between wealthy developed countries and impoverished so-called developing nations.  A new journalistic consortium called #BrokeInPhilly is producing compelling stories about many aspects of the problem.   


This growing cognizance is spurring initiatives targeting many aspects of the uneven growth problem - a workforce strategy (powered by Economy League research), a pending affordable housing plan, various legislative remedies aimed at spurring development without displacement via inclusionary zoning and new taxes aimed at creating resources for building affordable housing, the diversity & inclusion goals built into the City's Rebuild program, the United Way's new focus on intergenerational poverty, broader tax policy proposals aimed at spurring growth more generally, and the efforts of various anchor institutions to leverage their economic power to create jobs and growth, to name a few.   


Yet we lack a comprehensive long-range, citywide strategy for inclusive growth, such as those enumerated in the Chicago and Beaverton plans.  The closest Philadelphia has come to such a strategy, the 2013 Shared Prosperity Plan, while quite solid was more narrowly focused on ameliorating poverty rather than on developing a comprehensive growth strategy rooted in equity and inclusion. Philadelphia is at an inflection point, and the policy decisions we make in the next several years will determine whether our City can grow in an equitable way, sharing the prosperity generated in economically vibrant areas like Greater Center City and University City, or not.   


With decades of experience convening cross-sector leaders to tackle large civic challenges, the time is ripe for the Economy League to sharpen its focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  To that end, we have invited a diverse group of leaders from a variety of fields to participate in an inaugural meeting of a Working Group on Inclusive Growth, at Penn in mid-June.  Stay tuned for further details on this endeavor.