Community developers can help address income inequality

By Archive

A recent analysis makes the case that disparity of income is a "destructive influence" on the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco recently published an analysis, Addressing Widening Income Inequality through Community Development.

In addition to providing an excellent summary of the various factors that have led to the current disparity of incomes in America, the analysis was particularly relevant to me as a community developer because it framed the issue in more-global terms than usually presented.

Two quotations mentioned in the study nicely summarize the analysis. The first is from Federal Reserve Board Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin: "Inequality is destabilizing and undermines the ability of the economy to grow sustainably and efficiently." The second is from Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors: "The challenge for policy is not to eliminate inequality per se but rather to spread economic opportunity as widely as possible."

The message to economists and community developers is that, far from being exclusively a matter of social policy, wide disparity of income is, to quote Ms. Raskin again, a "destructive influence" on the economy as a whole.

The analysis of where social policy interacts with economic policy makes fascinating reading, providing insight into an aspect of the current debate over income inequality that has until now not received the attention it deserves, and offering a measure of hope that the tools exist to begin tackling this problem in immediate and concrete ways.

By the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's Community Housing office.