The Future of Equity in Cities

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Cities are shaping the story of America.

The success we have seen in our nation’s cities is clear, but the future of our urban places will be defined by how we work together — to lift all members of our communities in the future.

Great places don’t rise from a blank slate — they use unique assets to build up what’s special about the community, rather than seeking to recreate success from elsewhere. As cities continue to grow, equity and inclusion will be ever-more pressing.

Today, we’re releasing a new report that explores these pressing issues: The Future of Equity in Cities.

While many cities feel the immediate positive outcomes from wealth flooding into metropolitan regions, they also feel the negative impact on community members of varying income levels — particularly, those at the bottom that face increased housing prices, greater need for social services and growing concern for community safety. The income inequality and wealth gaps are at outsized levels, with the richest 0.1 percent holding the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

And when examined through a racial equity lens, the disparities become even starker; on average, white families have six times the wealth of African American and Hispanic families. This is where we are now.

Unfortunately, the current policy environment at the national level isn’t focused on alleviating these inequities—cities are.

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It is clear that our nation’s cities cannot only be defined by the growth of the tech and the creative sectors. Instead, we must act deliberatively for growth of any kind to be truly sustainable. As the tide of innovation in cities rises, local leaders must work assiduously to lift all boats by planning for inclusive economic development.

Finally, cities should begin with an honest evaluation of how their city is performing across all departments, programs and policies. As they adopt new technologies and smart city systems, they should think about whether those new interventions might improve or hinder existing inequities and biases. Cities are uniquely positioned to lead the nation toward more equitable outcomes.

nicole_depuis_readyAbout the authors: Nicole DuPuis is the principal associate for urban innovation in NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. Follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicolemdupuis.



Brooks_Rainwater_ready.jpgBrooks Rainwater is the senior executive director of the Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities. Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksRainwater.