For years, Americans have been told we’re in the middle of a recovery, that economic growth and jobs are on their way back. But by many measures, the recovery has been uneven, varying between industries, cities, and neighborhoods. In nearly four of five urban areas in the U.S., household income was at least 5 percent lower in 2016 than it was in 1999, and concentrated poverty is a serious issue.
Halting, and even reversing, this widening inequality has been a major focus of urban policy, with mayors and city governments testing out inclusionary policies and affordable housing plans. But amid lots of debate, and numerous efforts to bridge this gap, what actually works?
A pair of recent studies attempts to find the best ways for cities to bounce back, and ideally, do so while building more equal, inclusive, and resilient economies. “Inclusive Recovery in U.S. Cities,” by the Urban Institute, seeks to identify strategies for inclusive development (more equitable growth across varying areas and demographics), while the Brookings Institution took a deep dive into older industrial cities in an attempt to reverse trends of economic decline.
Taken together, the reports suggest that broad-based recovery and growth isn’t a zero-sum game, and that city policymakers needn’t stress about wisely select a few winners among a crowded field. Investing in underserved communities, and moving forward by focusing on those often left behind, has spillover effects that benefit cities and regions as a whole.
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