The St. Louis regional economy would see an increase of almost $14 billion if income were equal across racial lines. That’s according to a new report published by the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“That’s the kind of money that turns over in the economy to the degree that it translates into increases in property values and translates into increases available for education. There are just all kinds of implications for that level of change,” said Mark Tranel, the director of the Public Policy Research Center.
The research center compiled the report using 2012 data from the National Equity Atlas, a resource provided jointly by a private institution called PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California.
The report found that the median hourly wage of white St. Louisans is $5 higher than the median hourly wage of people of color who live in the St. Louis region. That trend held true across all education levels except for those with a bachelor’s degree or above. In that category, Asian St. Louisans earned a higher median wage than white St. Louisans. Across all education levels however, African Americans and Latinos earned less money in St. Louis in 2012.
In addition to measuring equity in wages, the report compared related statistics across race and ethnic groups, including unemployment rate, education levels, homeownership and the percent of young people who aren’t in school or working.
According to the report, there are almost twice as many young African Americans living in St. Louis without work or school than any other racial or ethnic group.
“If they stay in school and achieve a high school diploma, achieve a college degree they are a better resource for the employers in the metropolitan area, and … they have more money to spend,” said Tranel when asked why it’s important for young people to be in school or have a job.
“Those dollars, when spent, reverberate throughout the community. If you spend money in a grocery store that creates jobs for the people in the grocery store; that creates jobs for the suppliers of the grocery store," he added. “There’s a multiplier effect in terms of the additional wages these individuals can earn and how that affects a whole bunch of other people.”
Tranel said the report is not intended to recommend solutions but rather be a tool for government agencies and non-profit organizations working to bridge disparity gaps in St. Louis.
“There’s been a lot of discussion around issues of inequity. We felt that on the aspects that we’re presenting here there wasn’t consolidated in one place a lot of specific data on this issue. So our objective was to create this hopefully as a tool where people engaged in discussions about how we make changes going forward would have access to actual data about the current conditions and about the implications for changes,” Tranel explained.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.