I recently attended a Summit on Economic Reality for Black Minnesotans, where black community leaders talked about policy changes for addressing the deep inequities in our state. They explored issues including:
- Payday lending and the lack of available alternative lending options that treat consumers fairly.
- Mass incarceration and its impact on the state’s workforce and families.
- The two-tiered economy in which some are doing well but many workers do not have access to job quality measures like earned sick leave and fair scheduling.
The economic struggles of black Minnesotans have received renewed attention from policymakers after the release of Census data highlighting the stark contrast in economic outcomes between white and black Minnesotans. About 1 in 8 black Minnesotans are unemployed. The median household income for black Minnesotans is less than half the median income for white Minnesotans, and black Minnesotans are more than four times as likely to be living in poverty. For context, $24,250 is the current poverty line for a family of four.
While Minnesota has long seen large racial gaps in economic well-being, the Census data shows that the situation has gotten worse. Median household income for black Minnesotans has dropped by $4,500 in 2014. Policymakers are right to search for policy solutions so that economic opportunity is available to all Minnesotans.
As state lawmakers consider a special session to help unemployed miners on the Iron Range, they should also commit to addressing black Minnesotans’ lack of economic opportunity. Advancing policy solutions that respond to the economic crisis in Minnesota’s black community is one key step toward an economy that works for all. Issues that community leaders raise should be at the center of that discussion.