Racial Foundations of Public Policy is a fall 2021 virtual speaker series that focuses on the historical roots and impact of race in shaping public policy as both a disciplinary field and as a course of action. The series will bring in renowned scholar-experts from across the country to be in conversation with Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes, director of the Center for Racial Justice at the Ford School of Public Policy. The series is open to all members of the University of Michigan community and the wider public.
Celeste Watkins-Hayes: Welcome to the inaugural event of the Center for Racial Justice at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. I'm Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Director of the Center, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs here at the Ford School, and a Professor of Public Policy and Sociology. At the Ford School, we seek a world in which people are able to achieve their full human potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and other categories that have been used to divide and systematically marginalize people. We train leaders here who understand the critical role of public policy in improving our world. We recognize the power of public policy to bolster or undercut our life opportunities and experiences. And we see policy analysis as a critically important tool for us to measure, reflect, historically examine, and help us define the way forward.
CW: This racial foundations of public policy series augments the work that is already being done at the Ford School in the area of social equity. Under the leadership of Dean Michael Barr, we have a three-pronged approach. First, the Ford School engages in ongoing strategic planning and implementation around diversity, equity and inclusion in the service of building and sustaining an even better Ford School. We're focused on diversifying who we are, diversifying what and how we teach, promoting an equitable and inclusive environment, and diversifying our research and policy engagement. Second, we recently launched the Kohn Collaborative, through the philanthropic generosity of Hal and Carol Kohn. By supporting faculty and student research, workshops, seminars and other collaborative initiatives, the Kohn Collaborative seeks to advance innovative interdisciplinary research to address societal issues that affect the US with the goal of promoting societal equity and inclusion for all US residents. The Ford School is beyond thrilled to partner with the Kohns to advance our shared goal of supporting people and projects committed to the public good.
CW: And third, we now launch the Center for Racial Justice. At the Center for Racial Justice, we seek to explore, analyze and understand how public policies have undermined or advanced the goal of racial equity, illuminating evidence-based solutions and supporting changemakers who advocate for sound, just and fair public policies. We take an intersectional approach, seeking to expand knowledge and highlight strategies and tools that address complex intersections between public policy and race, gender, sexuality, class and other social categories. We seek to examine and to create a community of leaders, scholars and students engaged in social equity work. As we look at the fraught histories and consequences of some of our policies and the transformative power of others, we learn a valuable lesson; effective and just public policy can only be achieved if we bring diverse perspectives to the table.
CW: This fall, the center is launching the series that you are visiting with today, a cadre of scholars to deliver virtual presentations on the historical roots and contemporary currents of race and economic criminal justice, education, immigration and other policy areas. We'll be talking to Trevon Logan of Ohio State today, but also join us when we talk to Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve from Brown, William Sandy Darity from Duke, Rucker Johnson from UC Berkeley and Jennifer Lee from Columbia University. We encourage you to review our website for the dates of those events. And join us also for our virtual masterclass in activism, which will be held Wednesday, October 6th at 4:00 PM, featuring educator, humanitarian and social justice warrior Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole.
CW: So now I'm delighted to introduce you to the first speaker for our inaugural Center for Racial Justice event. Dr. Trevon Logan. Dr. Logan is the Hazel C. Youngberg Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics and the Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University. He's a research associate in the Development of the American Economy Program and director of the Race and Stratification Economy Working Group at the National Bureau of Economic Research. A former president of the National Economics Association, and a member of the editorial boards of several economic journals, Dr. Logan's international award-winning research has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Economist, NBC, CBS, Bloomberg, CNN and other major media outlets. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Brookings Institution, and the Washington Center for Equitable growth among others. Dr. Logan received his PhD in economics from the University of California Berkeley. Dr. Logan, welcome.
Dr Trevon Logan: Thank you so much for having me. And I'm absolutely delighted to be the inaugural speaker in this distinguished series. Thank you so much.
CW: Thank you. So as an economic historian, you focus on understanding the historical roots of contemporary disparities and inequities. Tell us why this kind of historical approach is important in our discussions of economic policy in general and labor markets specifically. Paint that backdrop for us.
DL: Yeah. That's a terrific question and a great segue to begin this discussion. So there are several different ways that one can be an economic historian, and one of those ways is thinking about completely historical questions. They may not have any policy thought at all, but understanding economically, the circumstances, the conditions of the past, that's really taking a much broader and bigger aspect of it. Another aspect of that is thinking about trajectories and genealogies, and thinking about policy genealogies, understanding that the past is a prologue to the present. That there are current situations that are not timeless, but in fact are continuations of trajectories that have begun some time in the past. And that branches off into two aspects, in and of itself. So there are some in economic history who study what I will call happenstance policies, or something happened on the left side that didn't happen on the right side, and we can then see if there's a difference in outcomes years later that it persistence. And then there are others, and I would fall into this latter camp, who want to think about formations over time, or continual processes that are much less amenable to causal identification stories, but are much more about winding and twisting threads that commingle over time.
DL: So if we're thinking about them in the American context, one way of thinking about this is: How does the racial enslavement practice lead to economic institutions that exist and then proceed after enslavement ends, that inform our politics, that inform our social organization, that inform our investment in public goods, that inform our political process, that inform our public policy, that are commingled in a soup that gives us what we see today? And so that is the type of economic history that I do, really looking at and thinking about these historical processes, teasing out empirical relationships but understanding that they are inherently endogenous to the historical circumstances and the context in which they were formed.
CW: So I know a key focus of your work is looking at the economic consequences of slavery, and the period of Reconstruction after slavery from 1865 to 1877, following the American Civil War. And I wonder, why do you think that's important for a conversation on race in a contemporary moment? Help us, give an example of how that historical lens, that policy genealogy, I love that term, plays out in thinking about a period like slavery, thinking about a period like Reconstruction?
DL: Yes, my first response, and it might seem very strange now considering the debates that we have about policy, but when I first began this 18 years ago, I didn't necessarily think Reconstruction itself would be so important, or as important as it has become, certainly in our public discussions of what we're facing, but it quickly became clear to me that one of the missing aspects in our narrative about Reconstruction, we know Reconstruction ultimately did not work, and it was not successful, that we had a racial hierarchy established in the South and frankly throughout the rest of the United States that was very similar in many of its functional consequences to the material conditions for African-Americans as enslavement was. But we had missed the fact that this actually was, in the history of democracy in the world, a truly momentous moment. Instantaneously, we'd moved from enslavement to enfranchisement. And that is something that we rarely see historically. We typically have the end of, say, chattel slavery, but not a full repatriation to the public, and particularly to the democratic public of a particular nation state.
DL: And what we had instantaneously, literally in the matter of months, was someone could move from an enslaved status, someone that the Supreme Court said had no rights which any white person was bound to respect, even if they were free, to being a fully participatory member in American democracy. And that in and of itself is, I think something that speaks to the promise of American democratic institutions.
DL: But also their fragility because that didn't last for very long. And this backdrop, in and of itself, tells us something when we talk about arcs of extension of the franchise. We have a large literature, say, in political economy that talks about the fact that you cannot undo enfranchisement regimes because it creates stakeholders, for example, that have entrenched interests, and it's very difficult to disenfranchise them. What we see from the experience of African-Americans in the political economy, that they can be disenfranchised, they can be actively disenfranchised. We see more of that evidence today when we're discussing voting restrictions at the state level, in a number of states right now that are passing these laws and instituting changes in voting practices and norms in a manner which we believe or we fear might lead to disenfranchisement again.
DL: And I think that's an important point to make, first of all, when we think about political economy, which is that there is not an arc of history that says enfranchisement in the expansion of the democratic state in the franchise are always and ever going to be irrevocable processes, but that America has a number of instances of extension of the franchise and then retrenchment from that, and stipulations and rules around that that are clear violations of the Constitution in and of itself. So it is not a clear arc that we ever face when we think about our political economy. Particularly with respect to race and particularly with respect to voting rights, it is a much more nuanced and winding story.
CW: And you actually draw that out into the economic realm, and one of the things that your work highlights is the relationship between racial violence and economic inequality. And we also know the relationship between racial violence and political disenfranchisement. So as we think about Reconstruction and the promise of that, and I agree with you, it was a moment that very much highlighted the promise of our democracy in terms of the right to vote for black men we must note, the opportunity to run for office, and in fact there were black office holders, the opportunities to serve on juries, etcetera. And then there is a moment where those doors begin to close and you write about how racial violence, it becomes a prominent mechanism, a prominent tool to reinforce a particular political and economic regime. Can you talk to us about that?
DL: Yes. So I think that the important backdrop of that and the violence that ends reconstruction, is predicated on how different the political norms of those black policy makers were. To the point that you made about it being black men who were voting, one of the things that white politicians noted at the time, was that black politicians and black men who were voting in general, were open in their consultation with their spouses and in making decisions that they felt were for community interest. Which is not something that was typical of the norms of white policy makers and white voters at that time. They were much more community driven because they were interested in a different set of political policies and public policies that they knew would enhance the life of, particularly their children, in terms of public education, for example, in the Reconstruction era.
DL: Another example that they wanted was the right to have free labor contracts. An important component of those contracts, we go back to the history of say, lit black, was the ability to have and take time of their spouses, of women, from the labor market to household work, to have greater control and autonomy over women. That has not been something that black women had experienced, of course, under enslavement. And so these were prerogatives that they wanted, and these were absolutely seen as the end of the world. You would have thought the world was falling and the sky was falling in to listen to what politicians speak about these political prerogatives. And so one of the first things that I was able to document in my work by going through the speeches and legislation passed by black politicians is that they did bring a different set of political prerogatives than white policy makers at the time. And we also see that with redemption, when the black politicians were gone, everything reverted back to a very different set of political norms.
DL: And post-Reconstruction. Yeah.
DL: Post-Reconstruction. So it's certainly is just not the case that they're black politicians, right? You could think about this in a median voter model, that the race of the politician doesn't matter at all, right? You just reflect the norms of the electorate. And then you would have much different sorts of targeting of violence, right? The targeting would be to drive black people from voting, because then you would get a different elected official, right, under say a median voter model. But they targeted black politicians because of the prerogatives and the policies they pursued. So in one of my first projects I was able to show that black politicians themselves, above and beyond the demographics of the electorate had an influence on redistributive policies. Taxes were higher in places where African-Americans were elected to office. We saw a greater provision of public goods, in particularly public education in the places where black politicians were elected. And those are prerogatives that black politicians articulated at the time, and they were active in wealth redistribution.
DL: And they understood this because they had been, many of them formally enslaved people. They understood that one way of encouraging wealth redistribution would be to tax wealth for the wealthy land owners in the South. And so they had an aggressive tax policy, property tax policy. Which is historically the closest that we're going to get to a wealth tax, and that was violently opposed by the Southern aristocracy that had existed in the Antebellum era. And you now face a problem of enfranchisement of African-Americans. Elected African-American officials were enacting policy that goes directly against these Antebellum norms. And the first stage of violence that I'm able to document of the direct attacks on black politicians, and so former in detail in the history of these black officers, notes which ones were met with violence. And what I discovered was that the areas that had the most aggressive taxation policies, conditional on having a black policy maker elected to office experienced a higher likelihood of violent attack of politicians.
DL: And so with political violence isn't just about black politicians being elected to office. It is about black political efficacy in terms of redistributive policy being met with violence. But one thing I note about that is, that sends a signal to any white politician, post-Reconstruction about what the norms for redistributive policy will be. So we see that this is the legacy of that level of political violence is a low level of public goods provision, particularly because you're constrained on the ability to raise taxes for the public good, given this violent history against politicians who had more advanced and progressive redistributive policies.
CW: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And I'm thinking about Heather McGhee's work, The Sum of Us. And she talks about the role that this debate around public good, what it is meant to have a debate around public goods that is infused with racial hostility and racism and how it becomes a struggle to pass public policies because of this racialized framing, whether it's explicit or not explicit. And you and I have had conversations about this idea of, at the core of public policy, so many of these conversations are about who gets access to public goods and under what circumstances, and how do we think about wealth and the redistribution of wealth. How do we think about access to opportunity, education, income, etcetera, and how so much of that is wrapped up in wealth. Do you see your work in conversation with Heather McGhee's work and the idea that so much of our public policy has been thwarted or undermined because of our obsession with racial hierarchy?
DL: Oh yes, definitely. And so if we return to this issue of public schools, which were established in the Reconstruction era, and they were segregated, there was not this idea that black politicians had that they wanted integrated school system, they wanted equally financed but segregated school system at the time. And these were some of the first public schools established in the South. The South did not have an extensive public education system before Reconstruction. Education was... They have the oldest public universities in the nation, but the youngest institutions of secondary and pre-secondary elementary education system, public education systems.
CW: Oh, interesting. Okay.
DL: They lagged the nation in the high school movement. So when we moved in the early 20th century to moving beyond elementary education to secondary education, and high schools, the South lagged behind the rest of the nation in that. The South actually didn't have a 50% high school graduation rate until the later parts of the 20th century. They really were laggard in that. And part of that, of course, is due to racialization and politics and low levels of investment in public goods. One of the things that white politicians noted at the time was, it's very important when we talk about public policy, that public is very important. Who the public is typically determines how generous these distributive policies will be. So one example that I continually give is that we have this idea or this narrative that the South has very poor policies related to the general welfare, for example, say for widows, mothers, mothers who are unmarried of young children. And that's not necessarily the case.
DL: The South had a relatively generous system of pension benefits for Confederate widows. But know, the Confederate widow is 99.99999% likely to be a white woman and her children are likely to be white children. Those programs are particularly generous and passed with universal support from white politicians. So it wasn't about the policy about helping poor mothers, the policy is about being able to help poor white mothers at the exclusion of poor black mothers. There's also work that looks even at our public infrastructure. For example, one of the things that we find in the work Water, Race, and Disease, which is a great book by Werner Troesken, talking about the provision of sewage services in the South. And one thing that they quickly noted was, it was something that they could not exclude African-Americans from entirely. And it is one of the chief sources of the decline in African-American mortality. So when they could not... They decided they could not have... Whites could not have clean water unless they actually cleaned up the water for African-Americans because of the ecology. And so when they cleaned up everyone's water, of course, we saw larger reductions in black mortality than we saw for white mortality.
DL: And so some of these aspects of who the public is determines our level of investment in these goods, to the degree to which we can exclude, we find historically exclude African-Americans, or segregate a public goods, then we tend to see that as the policy that we enact. We see that in the suburbanization process, particularly with public education. We see this even with infrastructure such as transportation infrastructure, where suburban communities will incorporate in order to stop, for example, bus services from going out to outer-lying areas, for example. We see this in the construction of roads and turnabouts and other things that can create physical impediments to open transportation networks for people, particularly from, say, the city to suburban communities. So there are ways in which we want to have our public goods for private consumption, particularly if we can define who that public is. If the public is us or say, us who are similar to ourselves, there tends to be higher levels of support for those policies.
CW: And we're gonna talk about some more recent policies in just a few moments, 'cause I see the thread that you're drawing thinking about policy lineages and policy genealogy. But first, talk to us about other communities of color. Talk to us about Latinx communities, Asian-American communities, indigenous communities. I mean, certainly a conversation about the relationship between race and public policy has to take seriously the creation of the country and the forced removal of indigenous populations. So as we think about this idea of policy genealogy, what must we consider, what must we know, what must we think about to have a better, more comprehensive understanding of these dynamics?
DL: I think there are a couple of threads that we have to think about and so I'm gonna reference it to one work and then weave that into this discussion of other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. So Jacoba Williams has this terrific piece. It's one of the... I'm very excited about this work, which looks at the long-term impact of historical lynchings on black political participation today. So earlier, I was talking about political violence against black politicians and the first thing I note in that study is, I found that it's not related to lynching activity. Lynching reaches its peak after Reconstruction ends, but not that far after Reconstruction ends, it reaches its peak about 10 years after Reconstruction comes to an end. And so to see all of this lynching activity unrelated to the violence against politicians raises a very interesting question of what was the purpose of that violence?
DL: And what Jacoba's work shows is that the one of the purposes of lynching, and black lynchings in particularly, so mobs lynching black people, was to depress voter turnout. We have two political processes going on, you need to get black politicians out of office by directly attacking them and then you need to remove African-Americans from the voting population, from political participation more generally. And those are two different processes that we see playing out. And so her work looks at those long-term effects. Places with higher levels of lynching activity have lower levels of African-American political participation today. In order to note that that also...
DL: Today. Today. Today.
CW: Wow. Wow.
DL: It's so important to note that the traditional narrative of lynching is some African-American man accused of some crime, particularly seen as some sexual imposition against a white woman and being lynched by a mob extrajudicially. But if this is coming out and seeing an enhanced and political participation, that disturbs that narrative. And so there's one example that I shared with Jacoba that I always think encapsulates this. So we all know about the lynching of Emmett Till. We know that story where he is accused of whistling at a white woman, and he is subsequently lynched and murdered. So in Look magazine after his murderers were exonerated in court, they give an interview and confessed to his murder. In that confession and everyone can go and look this up, they note what it was going through your mind when you're about to kill this young boy. I wanna very much emphasize that Emmett Till was young, he was not of age. The very first thing that his murderer mentions is black people voting. He doesn't mention sexual imposition. He doesn't mention whistling at a white woman, he doesn't mention defending the honor of Southern white womanhood. The first thing he says is, "We cannot have N word voting here because that would be the end of us."
DL: So the murder of a 14-year-old boy, who would not have been allowed to vote if voting had been completely democratized at that time, is meant to send a signal about political participation to that African-American community. So then what role does the violence play in other areas and for other racial and ethnic groups? There's a great book called The Chinese Must Go, which looks at the violence against Asian-Americans enacted primarily in the West because that's where they were located geographically and historically, and it is about expulsion. So in these areas, where we see that there is close knit ethno-communities developing, there is a sense of fear among the whites of the foreign, and a need to expel them from one particular place to another, and we see that expulsion impulse with Native American lynchings as well.
DL: There is a political purpose on it, it's not necessarily disenfranchisement. But it is and it serves a political purpose to geographically remove people in a political economy sense from the public sphere. To create in them a sense of intimidation, and inherently really a second class status. If you understand critically that your rights as a citizen, really as a human to your own life will not be respected, because these are not prosecuted cases. Nobody goes to jail for lynching, nobody goes to service office like this, then you understand that this is about your political disenfranchisement as well. And I mean, political in a broader sense, your inability to participate in daily activities of black on equal footing with other members of your community. That is one of the threads that weaves through this, even though not everyone was a citizen. It is about dispossession. So I think it's very important, as you mentioned, intersectionally, to think about what form dispossession must take for different racial and ethnic groups given the historical context. So it will be very different today what those contexts would be versus say in the past.
CW: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And one of the things that also is a focus of a lot of analysis is the post-civil rights gains that were made for blacks and other people of color. And first, I think we should know, when we talk about the civil rights movement, I'm focusing on mid-20th century, 1950s and 1960s, the more popular understood, but it's important to know the civil rights movement is actually long and spans past the 20th century in terms of the different forms of resistance and freedom fighting and challenge that was happening against racial hierarchies. But for this question, I wanna focus on our popular conception of the civil rights movement. Through the Montgomery bus boycotts, the work of King and so many other members of the civil rights community, thinking about the passage of the Civil Rights Act and where we started to see a latter 20th-century generation experiencing the gains of the movement. Talk to us about that. And what do we need to know, what do we need to understand? Because it starts to move us even deeper into contemporary analysis of issues like housing and education and income.
DL: That's a terrific question. And so the first thing I will say, because it's one thing I'm knee deep in and now I'm thinking about are public accommodations, and I think it's one of these things that actually has, once again, persistence, and when we think about other groups that I'll talk about in a moment. But it is remarkable for people to really understand. My mother grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. And growing up, you didn't go to a downtown department store and try on clothes. As an African-American person, you weren't allowed to do that. And we can't think about that today we don't think I'm going to go downtown, I'm gonna try on clothes, I wanna make sure that they fit. But we don't even understand that every dimension of life, particularly in the sense of just being able to go eat at an establishment, being able to go into a drugstore and be served, being able to go into a department store and try on clothes, being able to return clothes should they not fit at a store, for example, were not aspects of daily life that Africa-American people could expect all over the United States. To be able to go to a gas station if one is traveling over the road and be able to use a restroom, for example.
DL: These were not things that you could take for granted in terms of just day-to day activities of life for African-American people. What Andrew Grimmer very famously showed in a study, was that if you were taking a trip from Washington DC to Miami, Florida, an African-American traveler would have to go an extra 150 miles per stop to find a hotel to sleep. Now, at that time with the speed limit, that's an additional three hours on the road. Another thing that we know is that those hotels, because they were so rare, were commonly at full occupancy. So if you could find the accommodation that would allow an African-American to stay, you probably wouldn't be able to find a room, because it would actually be over-subscribed. And so we have this system of informal accommodations where people opened their home to travelers, and that will be an active business, because you knew that private enterprise would not do this.
DL: And so one of the key things about this Civil Rights Act of 1964 legislation that we don't think about, but that was a key element of the debate at the time, was simply the ability of institutions, of public... I wanna emphasize they were public accommodation to be open to all members of the public, and to serve them actually equally with non-discrimination. It is still the case today that if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were ruled unconstitutional, and I'm knocking on wood, on my desk here, because that might be a possibility with our climate today, five states could immediately go to separate but equal accommodations of racial segregation. It's not out of the realm of possibility. So that very first level, we typically concentrate on these things that are about labor markets and about housing and about the other things that you mentioned, but I don't think we understand that circa 1964 was momentous to simply have freedom of movement.
DL: Now, what is so interesting about that, I'm gonna go forwards and I want to go backwards, is we're continuing to see those debates today about the rights, for example, of those who are gender-nonconforming, transgender, etcetera, and their access to public accommodations and equal treatment in places. And this freedom of movement, if we go back to the earliest histories of the post-emancipatory or was the greatest source of freedom or expression for African-Americans who had recently been enslaved. Number one thing that they did was simply get up and leave because they could, and this is not something they could experience before. So physically, our freedom of movement. We moved from freedom of movement in 1865 to federally legislated freedom of movement in 1964. And now we're thinking about freedom of movement for a different group today.
DL: All of this is about the ways in which policy constricts the ways in which people can physically live in the spaces in which they inhabit. So I just wanna put that first idea out there.
CW: Right, right. And let me jump in before you go to your next idea. What's so interesting about that, particularly when we think about transgender populations, is how that restrictive freedom of movement has economic consequences, in terms of... Through my own work on women living with HIV, if people don't feel comfortable or aren't allowed into spaces, it limits what jobs they have, it limits where they can get access to housing, it limits so many economic resources, and it often drives people to participate in the underground economy, and to participate in crime for survival in ways that then further jeopardize and harm them. So it's so interesting. I never thought about that parallel that you're making in terms of freedom of movement for black people and what that meant for them economically, and freedom of movement for other populations, and the debate we're now having around transgender populations and their freedom of movement and those implications for their economic outcomes and access to resources and opportunities. Yeah.
DL: I'm so excited now because, of course, what you're saying is so interrelated. And it's one of these features that it's strange that those who tout the promise of a free-market enterprise, which should be about free movement of people, typically are those who advocate for some of these restrictions. And so if we're going back to this post-Reconstruction era, these are the people passing vagrancy laws. They don't want African-Americans to have freedom of movement, because freedom of movement means if they're unhappy with the labor market that they see locally, they can move to another like those. Restricting people structurally limits their options. And so if you're thinking about trans people who are excluded from public spaces, it forces them, by policy, to the underground economy, to what I will call the shadow economy, because that is where they can operate with some degree of freedom, greater than what they can operate at present, if they are restricted from being... Or it's easy to have them not employed, or to fire them once their identity has been discovered as being transgender.
DL: So these are the types of things where policy can match in these life circumstances, and then what we see is this self-fulfilling prophecy of saying, "Well, these people in this group are participating in these activities," but we haven't thought about the structures which make those activities. Their key and likely only consistent source of livelihood or income because of the way that we forced them into those margins.
CW: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. One more question about the civil rights era, so we can talk about some more contemporary moments. When you think about the rise of the black middle class, and I think that so much of the Civil Rights Movement also opened doors for other populations of color, in terms of advancement, how do we make sense of the fact that we no longer have populations of color that are... Well, I don't know that we... We never had... We've always had class diversity within black communities, but a much larger share of the black population able to move into the middle class, and even some able to move into the black economic... Into the economic elite. And for those who point to that and say, "That is progress." I'm the product of that, you're the product of that, how do we incorporate that segment of the population into our analysis of this relationship between race and public policy. The population that's actually been able to move up economically, despite all of the challenges that you're talking about.
DL: I think the first thing we have to do is disaggregate the discussion between talking about income and talking about wealth because wealth is going to get us into those inter-generational conditions and I'll talk much more about that. What we do see is some convergence, although it has slowed more recently some of our current shows and others have looked at this and seen stagnation of the black-white income gap essentially since the 1980s. And so there is this post-civil rights, say, 1965 to 1980 acceleration of black incomes. But in some more detailed work, we now see a lot of stagnation in these income ratios, and so the narrative that there's been a great deal of advancement is now a bit in dispute. When we turn to wealth there is... So if I'm talking to Derrick Campbell and he tells me there is no black middle class but I disagree with him. I think there's a black middle class, but it's very small, and one of the reasons for this is historical policy. So it is still the case today, if you go to the Survey of Consumer Finances and you say, "Well, who would the black middle class be?" They would be African-Americans who have at least a college education, those should be some of the wealthiest members of the African-American community, etcetera.
DL: At the median, an African-American with a college education has less wealth than a white person who has not completed high school. And so when we refer to this black middle class, it's important to understand that, that black middle class is small and it's small, and particularly when we consider, wealth because of these historical policies. So our access, say to educational institutions, access to greater economic opportunities in the labor market, greater returns to investment in their capital, as a member of the professoriate, we, if it was 70 years ago, we would be both be at Howard University because that would be about the only university that we could be at. And so, there are more opportunities there so these are enhancing activities, but the problem is that the historical role of wealth and its trajectory and how it is intergenerationally transmitted limits the ability for us to truly move to the wealth levels that would define us as middle class people.
DL: So what we see when we look at the COVID pandemic and the way that it has ravaged the African-American community in particular, it is this lack of access to wealth. We see for example, that African-Americans and even the children of those, in this black middle class will have, on average, higher levels of student debt because they don't have parents who can leverage other resources to pay for college educations, for example, for their children. So these intergenerational transmissions of that wealth, limit our potential to truly accelerate into the middle class along all of these dimensions, and where we would want to measure it. So not only income, but also looking at wealth as well.
CW: Mm-hmm. And speaking of COVID, I want you to talk about the racialized economic outcomes of COVID. You've written a report for the Hamilton Project on this issue. I know that you are in the process of updating it, and I wonder if you can just provide an analysis here of what we're seeing, and I know in your work, you write about the uneven and yet evolving dynamics around race and labor market outcomes, and you talk about a broader variety of things, education. You talk about a number of things. Can you just talk to us about that and give us a sense of the landscape of what we are now seeing in the relationship between COVID and racialized economic outcomes? Paint that picture for us of where we are.
DL: When I look at COVID I think about it as, say it's a liquid, and so if I spill a liquid over a keyboard, it's going to find itself in the middle of the keys for anybody who's ever spilt something over their laptop. [chuckle] It's gonna very quickly find itself seeping into those cracks. And I view COVID very similarly, because it found, almost immediately, literally by August of 2020, it had found itself exacerbating and exploiting these racial inequities that we had in our society. The exploitation that we saw of frontline workers, for example, who were disproportionately people of color who were continuing to work, even in instances where they had hazard pay, that hazard pay was reduced, even though this is was coming before vaccination was widely available for them, continuing to work the frontlines in the pandemic.
DL: We saw the differences in schooling policies and safety policies around virtual education. We very quickly discovered that the move to remote works best in communities where people have extended access to remote learning services such as internet access, and not everyone necessarily has that, and so we would see learning gaps exacerbating along those lines as well. And once again disproportionately impacting people who were black and brown. We saw communities, for example, when the Defense Production Act was used by President Trump to have workers in the pork industry and the poultry industry back into their plants, in which they are in close contact with others, before there was any vaccination and with very high death rates, and disproportionately again, those workers were non-white workers. They were black and Hispanic workers.
DL: So we saw a pandemic map out and just in terms of exposure to disease and death, exploit these racial inequalities because they were layered upon these economic inequalities by race. And so as the pandemic seeped out into society, those who could retreat into safety, into virtual remote work, virtual learning, etcetera, did and had lower death rates or rates of exposure. But those who could not were not safe. It's also the case that those who are African-American, Hispanic, on average lived in more dense communities, so if you have a communicable disease that is airborne and you're in a more densely populated place, you're also more likely to be exposed. Well, that's a product itself of a segregation in housing policies that have now doubled down and given us these racial differences in the average density of locations.
DL: And again, this virus is just silently seeping into that cleavage as well. And so in all of these various levels we see it coming back in these areas. And then when we turn to the unemployment picture, we see that rates of African-American unemployment skyrocket and then they are slower to recover to their pre-pandemic levels. Even leaving that aside, we still have the this structural difference with African-American unemployment, particularly unemployment rates of African-American men. Well, now we see increase in the unemployment rate of African-American women after the pandemic, again where COVID is this liquid seeping into all of the nooks and crannies of racial inequality in the United States.
CW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. What are your thoughts about the expansion of the safety net in those policies? The child tax credit, the child credit, and other policies that as touted are positioned to substantially reduce poverty across the country, and black poverty in particular and poverty rates among communities of color. Can you talk about... Are you optimistic about those policies? Do... Are you cautious about them?
DL: I'm optimistic in what I've seen so far. So I know the work of Dan Dosenbach who has looked at hunger in families, and we saw rates of hunger in the early months of the pandemic that should be just devastating to us as the wealthiest country on earth. Upwards of a quarter for example of black and Hispanic children had not had enough to eat during last summer because... And due to the pandemic. So there was a serious food insecurity problem that was racially disproportionate. What we have seen since the extension of these refundable tax credits to parents, is that that situation has improved dramatically. So I think the first I note, do people have enough to eat? That's why it's my first orders of are we're taking care of ourselves. I think that would give me some signs for optimism. I'm still concerned about housing and eviction policies particularly because many poor families and those who work for example in urban education know this very well.
DL: We don't talk about this nearly as much, but large urban school districts in Columbus, Ohio would be one of them, have moved to regimented calendars, because so many of their students move around the city during the academic year. And so movement around the city necessitates transferring to a different school and you would exacerbate learning gaps if there were completely different academic calendars and so completely different lesson plans by grade and by school and would move a child into a completely different environment. So standardizing that practice is one way to try to address the lived experience of these students who have high rates of mobility, particularly the poorer they are. Layer on with that students who might be... And young people who might be involved in Child Protective Services for example or in and out of foster care in the scope of an academic year and once again necessitating movement, this is also related to poverty. And so we see these high rates of mobility already that have been addressed, that could be exacerbated by eviction policies, if we don't have housing stability for these students as well.
CW: And the other thing that I hear you saying about that really interesting point, in terms of our concerns around housing instability, is how the Columbus School District saw an experience, a lived experience of its constituents and responded through policy mechanisms. And here at the Ford School we really help to instill in our students how to have a rich policy analysis, how to have a comprehensive policy analysis that is a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures that has ethical undergirding to it. So the example that you highlight is... Calls to mind for me what we're trying to create in our students which is this idea of being able to watch what's happening, and to figure out how do you move institutions in particular ways to be responsive of that. In an ideal world we wouldn't have the problem in the first place of kids moving around because of economic instability and the subsequent housing instability. We would have a structural remedy for that. But in the absence of that, that institutional intervention, I thought was really interesting.
DL: Yeah, I think that that's great. I wanna turn the focus back on universities themselves. We realized how many of our students at universities, at Ohio State or University of Michigan were also housing insecure but we needed to send them away when a pandemic [laughter] broke out.
DL: In March of 2020, we realized not every... Our ideal, is that students are going to return home, but that's not the case for every student. Not every student actually had... And even for students who are returning home, not every student is in an environment that is conducive to college level learning because the other aspects of their life that are now changing because of the pandemic itself. And so we saw that very clearly that we create these institutions at universities or we bring students in, and so we don't like to think about the places where they are coming from necessarily. But when we had to send them back and still have them be connected to the institution, we had to address those issues and that was food insecurity, that was housing insecurity. And so you saw universities using those CARE funds. I wanna shout out to HBCUs, which were canceling student debt obligations for their students using those CARES Act funds because they understood the socio-economic conditions of their students. And so I think that, and I'm hoping that universities learned in all aspects, more about the social and environmental circumstances of their student population and the diversity thereof, in terms of thinking about effective institutional policies.
CW: Absolutely, absolutely. And we like thinking about policy in many different dimensions. I always tell my students, when we think about policy, it's not just about what's happening in Washington, it's about state, local, but it's also what's happening within the institutions to which you are connected. Those are also key moments of policy intervention that could have generational, perhaps even intergenerational effects. When we talk about the example you just gave, of what does it take to keep a student within the college environment so that that person can finish their degree and what will be the implications for that long term? That's a policy intervention, to create that. You have testified before Congress, Dr. Logan, this past April, you testified before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, on the dignity of work. I wonder if you can talk to us about the central ideas that you presented.
DL: Yeah. The one central idea that I presented there, and a lot of economists are talking about this now is monopsony power in labor markets and what monopsony power in labor markets does. And so we all know what monopoly is, and besides being a very good board game that I'm very good at playing, monopoly is when you have [laughter] a single...
CW: We gotta play monopoly one day. I wanna see about that.
DL: Monopoly exists and you win when you're the only seller in the market. Everyone has to come to you for that good, and then you can of course charge prices as you would like. And then if you're a monopsony, you're only demand. You're the only one who wants what people are selling. And so if you're in a labor market for example, think of a classic company town where everyone works at place X. They're the only place in town that's demanding labor. And so when that happens, they can set wages quite low. And what we see from consolidation of markets and now a number of studies that have analyzed monopsony power, is seeing how devastating it can be for workers. And dissimilarly, as we were talking about movement of people and freedom of movement, the lack of freedom of movement of workers to be able to go to different firms, to realize better benefits, to have greater career trajectories, will limit their wages, and in fact put a ceiling and a lower bound on their wages and will depress their wages. We also see that there are other things that contribute to that monopsony power. So one of these is just consolidation. So if you're in a local market for example, you may have had six hospital systems that condensed down to two.
DL: And now if you have two hospital systems, well where can you go and be employed if you're working in the healthcare system? If you are a nurse practitioner, if you're an anesthetist, whatever it is that you're doing, you now only have two potential employers where you would have had six before. And so the lack of competition in that market can depress your wages. And it can also lead to collusion. One great study by a colleague of mine, Matt Weinberg showed this in the beer market.
DL: So this might be of particular interest to some people. So you think... And what we do typically when we approve mergers is we say, "Look, you're gonna go from X many competitors to X minus one competitors, and that won't have any big changes." But what happened is, we go from four competitors down to three, and that actually increases the scope of collusion. And so increasing the scope of collusion lead to beer prices that were actually higher than they would have otherwise been. Because now coordinating between four people might be really hard but coordinating between three can be actually quite easy. And so this is one way in which consumers were harmed by this merger, which at the time was seen to not have these anti-competitive practices. We wouldn't have expected it. So the same thing can happen in the labor market when you condense down the number of firms. So you might not think that it would have depressive effects on wages, but it can.
DL: Another aspect that's equally important is the number of workers who are in these non-compete agreements and in other forms of labor market frictions. So the work by the late Alan Krueger was showing that something around 20% for example, of workers with a high school education are covered under a non-compete agreement. And there was recently a story in the media, I believe it might've been the New York Times or Washington Post, where it talked about a security guard who was working and he was earning say $9 an hour, another firm was employing that security guard for $11.50 and he moves to this other position. And it turns out his former employer contacts him and says, he has a non-compete agreement. He can't be employed as security...
CW: I was surprised by that. I was stunned by that. We think of non-compete agreements as operating at the top of the labor market so often. But I was stunned to learn how frequent it happens in the lower ends of the labor market. And that was stunning to me.
DL: It is. And I think it is an unrecognized story at this point. My colleague, Kurt Lavetti here at Ohio State has some moral compass, and has also shown that the areas where there are more extensive use of these non-compete agreements have higher levels of racial wage inequality as well. So this lack of mobility again, is working in the cleavages of racial inequality as well. And so that's one of the things I was testifying to the Senate about, which is that if we believe in free markets, wonderful, but the market has to actually be free.
DL: We can't have it just... Sometimes this narrative that we believe in free markets for the capitalist, and that's not actually a free market, there has to be a free market for all of the aspects of production, and that's going to be what empowers workers. We know for example, the large impacts, for example, of unions and union membership on wages, increases in wages, and living standards, and all of these things moving us to having higher standards of living that are in the current politics that tend to be extensively attacked.
CW: Mm-hmm. So you talked about free markets and your love of Monopoly, and we have a question from a viewer that pushes back on the idea of capitalism. So the question is, what are some of the challenges working to advance racial equity within economics when so much of our economic system is based in a capitalist and exploitative market where black and brown communities are marginalized within our financial institutions? Do you ever worry that our economic and financial systems will never be able to change without structure overhaul that might change how we categorize our type of market, id est, no longer a capitalist market?
DL: I think that that is such an interesting question. I think one of the questions I would have in response to that is re-imagining markets or thinking about the end of capitalism is something that I think a lot of people are now paying some attention to, but it's not clear to me what that means, and it's quite an amorphous definition for people. So some people truly mean moving to a completely planned economy, a centralized bank economy, others believe moving towards what we will call Western European style democratic socialism with a greater extent of goods but would not inherently believe in a highly oriented capital market. I will would call it a higher floor than what we currently see in the United States.
DL: Those are very different types of market structures, both of which would be different than what we have in the United States today, but both would function very differently and have different impacts on material well being. I think one of the concerns that we would have with any system or moving to any system is, and it's just a concern that I have, moving to a system that is highly centralized wouldn't necessarily be to the benefit of African-American people. That centralization leads to a rationing process, which could be even worse than what we currently experience in the system. But I think that we have to think about what those safeguards would be in that system.
DL: There are some other things that we can do about the current system, because what we have is a capitalist system that never had equal access to capital. We've done a lot. The federal government, historically, down certainly to the President, has done a lot of bulk redistribution. It's just done it in a racially exclusive way. So a lot of bulk has been redistributed from the federal government to the white population through the Northwest Ordinance, to homesteads, to the GI Bill, to a whole lot of other things, where the federal government was supplying and subsidizing wealth building activities primarily for white Americans.
DL: We never experienced that as black Americans. So there could be a fundamental question of capitalism being poorly administered and then another issue of what will we have if we have a true reparations program which would bring about an end to that unequal wealth by race. That, I think, is a different question and I don't know whether or not people think that that would be what we would have as a redistributive policy. There are many different ways that people think about that today but I'm not inherently someone who says, "Take down all of capitalism." I'm not an anti-capitalist. I don't believe our current system of capitalism works quite well. I also believe that what we have currently engaged in is what Angus Steven refers to as theft capitalism. So we have a lot of what we're calling capitalism is really just taking from people and that's not necessarily capitalistic because that actually is counterproductive to production.
DL: There are some inherent incentives in capitalism that might be good and that we would want to retain but I do think it's important for our policies to understand that the role of public policy, in terms of the role particularly of the government, and I mean this at the federal level, is to establish the rules of the game. We know from the late 19th- century Gilded Age experience what it is like to have these high levels of inequality. Eventually, they convert our politics and so we have to have mechanisms in our society that prevent the negative political and economic and social outcomes of inequality run amok because that inequality is not just about economic inequality or wealth inequality, it eventually becomes political inequality. It eventually becomes socio-mobility inequality. And that's what we see today is that the vestiges of this, what I would call theft capitalist system run amok is that it is negatively influencing our politics and our society more generally.
CW: Can you give a contemporary example of theft capitalism? When I think of it, you know slavery obviously comes to mind and there are so many different policies throughout time. What would you see as theft capitalism as it operates today?
DL: Well, the example that Angus Steven gives is in healthcare with the Opioid epidemic. With prescribing these drugs, drug companies getting very rich off of doctors prescribing this medication which addicts patients, has these negative social implications, leads to addiction and in the end of it, of course, it doesn't actually really treat the pain that these people had and stymies the development of others. In other words, it's exploiting the healthcare system's payment process for the purpose of having these high rates of reimbursement for these drugs, and it's not generating necessarily the public good. So it's ability to, I would call, distort the pricing mechanisms. And we see that particularly in the form, Dean argues, in healthcare and in pharmaceuticals in particular. So we see this in the evergreening, for example, of products. So you'll see brokered agreements made for products that are about to turn off a patent where there should be generics which should dramatically lower the price for people with minimizing their out-of-pocket expenditures and generate lot of consumer welfare.
DL: And we see them enter agreements with payment service providers to not prescribe or not fill the prescriptions for the generic for a set number of months, for example, or combining a prescription drug that is going off patent with one that is still patent-protected in a way that basically continues the old patent for the drug that is now officially itself off a patent as a niche. So these are ways in which we're thinking about the funding of that activity and it's not related to the research and development that the pharmaceutical companies will tell you are needed to fund these. There is an aspect where patent protection makes a lot of sense to fund research and development but the pricing that we see for these drugs is not necessarily consistent with funding research and development as opposed to gross profits for those who are in the executive positions and stockholders.
CW: Mm-hmm. I see. And let me ask, and so much of this also is the way in which our economy has moved to be very driven by stockholders and investors, and that is the stakeholder that seems to matter above all else, not workers, not even customers. It's about shareholders, yeah.
DL: There are two issues that I see with that. One is we are we, and I mean this as a collective, are the stockholders. When we think about who owns a lot of these stocks, it's in retirement plans. It's in all these other things and so we're looking... Who are these stockholders? I guarantee you they're not people in developing countries who are just purchasing stocks. It is Americans ourselves; we are these stockholders. Although I will say that, again, when we think about wealth inequality, stock ownership and what I would call active stock ownerships, not owning stocks in say a mutual fund or a portfolio but really actively managing their own stock portfolios, is once again, a very, very small percentage of the American populations active in that market but there is a lot of money in that market that is in the collective.
DL: There are I think two negatives of this, in this focus on this, and there's a lot of research now on finance looking at this, does this attention in the stock market, in particular the volatility of the stock market, day-to-day movements in the stock market, does this influence the perspective and the management decisions of executives who, not only are directly compensated by stock prices and are incentivized by that, but who also would want to respond to that if boards are quick to dismiss CEOS if they have negative stock performance for some time? So you might find yourself lacking the strategic vision to make the long-run investments if you're focused on the short-run gain.
DL: That is one of the issues in terms of corporate policy that we're seeing and I think this is one way in which public policy has to unite with business education is: How do we think about corporate policy that is commingled and enhanced by government policy, that is thinking about a strategic vision for both in the current way in which we organize the American economy? Some really interesting work, thinking about this on an economic lens, is just thinking about misallocation of talent. We miss out when we have people because of what they look like, their gender presentation, their race, where they were born for example, not participating in the economy to their fullest capacity. That's a misallocation of resources and it literally, if you look at it, and back to your earlier question about the civil rights movement, there's a great paper by Peter Klenow, Chad Jones and I'm forgetting the name of the other authors in Econometrica, which looks at... Look the civil rights movement comes, frees up opportunity for African-Americans' movement, in particular, of what happens in the labor market, and they see, of course, people choose different things.
DL: So you couldn't have been a doctor in practice to a great extent before the civil rights had happened. And so that would be a better allocation of talent. And they find that this allocation of talent explains a great deal of American productivity growth is simply removing the discrimination. And this in fact could help if you learn about what we're all losing. So in other words, removing that discrimination is what can grow our economy and so it's really important for us to understand that that is not only public policy saying you can't discriminate but then it has to go down, as you mentioned about institutions, to the specific companies and the business practices which create cultures which allow people to thrive. And we see that in some areas of the economy where there is a race for talent and then we see at the opposite end of the economies we were talking about earlier, this restriction of movement. And so we have to think about how we can take those policies that we see and what we would call, "this high productivity part" of the economy, this knowledge economy and how we can input those policies along the entire distribution of wages in the economy.
CW: Mm-hmm. I have several questions in the chat and I wanna ask just one more question before we move to all of these which is: At the Ford School, the faculty are engaged in several conversations around how we talk about and teach these issues and I wonder what advice you can give. And one of the things that I'm taking away from our conversation is the way that you see race. The way that I frame it is you don't see race as just a variable to plug into an equation, you see race as a historical and social process and racism as a mechanism that has been used within the market for a variety of different problematic aims. What advice would you give to the faculty of the Ford School as we think about how to more critically take on these ideas and to be more thoughtful about how to integrate this understanding into our curriculum so that we can better educate our students to be policy leaders who are well-informed, know their history, are well positioned to make excellent decisions wherever they go? Give us some advice Trevon.
DL: Okay. No, it's a great question, and I say that in thinking that I have turned my course in economic history into much more policy-oriented questions, because I think history is a great way of doing that. So my advice to Ford School faculty, the first would be come to Ohio State. I don't know...
CW: Oh, I knew you were gonna do that.
DL: Given that you're at the Ford School, okay, then conditionally...
CW: Wait this is where in the recording we're just gonna blank out this spot.
DL: My next piece of advice would be to really think about the ways in which we treat race in terms of thinking about the ways in which race influences the construction of policy itself. And we typically concentrate on explicit aspects but then we have to think about implicit aspects of this as well. And I actually wanna go back to this freedom of movement and public accommodations story because we think about public accommodations, and typically what we think about is an employer discriminating against a certain class of customers but we know from the Civil Rights Movement that the firm owner said, "Look, if I start serving black customers here, I'm gonna lose all of my white customers." And there's a way in which this process, this market process is in and of itself binds the firm to the consumer base, and that's gonna be predicated on the wealth inequality and the income inequality that existed in those communities at this time.
DL: It ended up being firms who wanted non-discrimination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because it prevented them from being the targets of a protest negotiating non-discriminatory policies and their competitor up the street saying, "I'm still segregating, so come over here," who have these segregation preferences. They wanted everybody to play on an equal playing field. And so one of the things I think that we need to do when we teach policy, is teach those nuances. That we have these sort of archetypes of heroes and villains, for example, in history and what we really have are these social categories that bend and change over time. And I think to teach these aspects of race really critically, we have to think about and interrogate these things from multiple dimensions.
DL: Probably one of the works that, thinking about this really in a long arc, in this intersectional space, as you were mentioning earlier, Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers' work, They Were Her Property, it's been probably one of the most impressive histories that I've read recently. It looks at white woman as the enslavers in the South. And one of the most interesting aspects of this is that enslavement is one of the only areas in the 19th century where we see white women get around coverture which is this condition in which when a woman is married, all of her assets accrue to her husband. And so we see enslavement as a means in which white women were granting themselves and their parents were granting them economic independence.
DL: Now that really troubles, then, these notions of gender equality because it's predicated on racial enslavement. And so, what does that mean when we're talking then about gender emancipatory economic policy? Enslavement ends up being one of these areas, but we can't say that that's what we want if we really want a truly free... So I think grappling, as instructors, with these... And history just gives you these things, there are no easy answers here. And history doesn't give you a really nice lesson plan with really shortcut answers but now we have to work into this space of saying, there are instances historically in which someone's enslavement was someone else's freedom and economic independence, and these are existing simultaneously. As a policy maker, what are the values that we bring to that situation?
DL: Because if it was important in the educational space is to return this to the fact that we're not thinking about this ideologically, we're not thinking about this with our guts. We have to, as you talked about earlier, crafting leaders, we have to lead with our values. That's why I think that these ways of teaching this, if it's done effectively, should bring us all the way back to our values because we are going to face, as policy makers, these very difficult spaces in which you're going to see these debates taking place and the only way to navigate them is to have a strong sense of your values and to bring them to your analysis of the problem.
CW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. That is such great advice and very different in some ways from how we were trained as scholars. So it's also about, what I hear you saying is, us being ready to break some of those old molds and models. But look what you get by investing the time and the resources by doing so. The example that you gave is so complicated and rich and really pushes us back to think about what are our core values as we make these decisions, absolutely. So, question from Susan Page. Hello, Susan Page. And it goes right to this question of freedom of movement which she thinks is a very intriguing idea. Why don't we focus more on this issue of freedom of movement in public spaces? How can we as policy makers make that connection more clear?
DL: I think that's a great question. I think it is difficult to make that pertinent because you don't think about this as an issue today. And I think so it's important to historicize what freedom of movement has meant historically. So freedom of movement was about economic stability, was about economic freedom, particularly in areas in which poor people historically were investing in their human capital was via movement. We think about this in a very different way today. So restricting someone's movement historically was restricting their economic possibilities and I think what we haven't done is we haven't drawn that line between that restriction of movement historically and restriction of movement today. And it may be over a smaller range. It may be restriction of movement over a city, for example, but we know from the work say even of rise to change that cities that have longer commute times have lower levels of social mobility and higher levels of inequality. And this is just related to commute time as one way in which people's movement is restricted because of the amount of time that they need to spend to go to and from their place of occupation and rather than think about how that movement works.
DL: I think also to this question is how is the post-pandemic world going to free us in our physical environments? So what I mean by that is are we going to be as tethered to central business districts, to brick-and-mortar schools and universities and doctor's offices, for example, as we have been up until, say, March of 2020. So as we re-imagine those spaces, there may be great opportunity in having those virtual spaces allow for the first time, segments of the population to have equal movement with other parts of the population as well. So I think one of the ways in which we can make that connection is to think about the things that are now much easier. We think about how things may even be harder for some of us in some aspects, but going to another way of thinking about that and thinking about the ways in which things are now easier or more equitable for other parts of the population, and how that was about movement restriction historically and certainly before the pandemic.
CW: Excellent. Question from a student. I would love to hear Dr. Logan's thoughts on the Supreme Court's end to President Biden's eviction moratorium and its impact on black families, especially in households with single black mothers who've already had the main childcare taking responsibilities in their households prior to the pandemic.
DL: Yeah, there are so many aspects of this. One of these is, end of the moratorium, there is a bit of a disconnect between the Supreme Court's decision and the actual evictions that may occur in some localities. What we're noticing now is eviction moratoriums are implemented in very different ways in very different locations and I think that one of the things that I haven't seen yet is just even the descriptives of where we see more evictions being carried out versus where we don't see more evictions being carried out and the consequences that that has on the local population. I think one of the most dispiriting things outside of the Supreme Court's decision is the lack of the distribution of funds in the legislation that was passed earlier this year to get resources to people for rental assistance, and I think that is a significant policy failure.
DL: We had... And I think that as you mentioned, this wasn't on which policy was in and out Washington DC, but I need that policy to work in Columbus, Ohio. I need that policy to work in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I need it to work in Ypsilanti. I need it to reach the renter in that place so that they can get assistance and that was a disconnect that was putting a lot of households at risk even though we had funds for that purpose. And so I think that is one of the things that is most disturbing is outside of the eviction moratorium itself, is that the rental assistance that was funded had not been accessed.
CW: Mm-hmm. And that's one of my areas areas of policy research focus, the implementation process within the bureaucracy and what happens, and how does that get thwarted in terms of the ambition of the policy versus the experience on the ground. So, great question from that student. Thank you so much. We got to Ambassador Paige's, question. Thanks again. Ambassador Paige. Another question from a student, given that throughout the history of the United States, there have been continuous attempts to restrict advancement for black Americans in addition to many other persons of color, what do you say is the largest hindrance to the advancement of minority populations?
DL: That's a great... That's a terrific question. And I think... I don't want this answer to seem too abstract, but I think it is that the biggest hindrance to the advancement of minority populations is the active exclusion from the political process. So we have a political economy, that bend... I mean If we have not seen anything over the last eight years, it is the way in which policies bend to the constituencies who make up the voting population. And if that is the way that it works, of course, everyone just wants their people to show up and vote, and they don't want anyone else to show up and vote. So that exclusion, I believe is one of those roots where everything else can get tied along to. It's very easy to defund the schools of the people who the policymakers are not beholden to.
DL: It's very, very easy to issue policies on people who you are not subsequently responsible for in a political process. It's very easy to do that. It's very easy to be punitive to people that you're not beholden to in the political process. And so one of those key issues then is political exclusion. And if we see continued political exclusion and attempts at political exclusion, are designed to make those who are in policy positions unaccountable to fractions of the public. And then they can enact whatever policy that they would want. That is one thing that can spur higher levels of inequality and spur higher levels really of social instability. But once again, if you're only beholden to a small class, then that is where your policies will be instituted. And this gets us right back to the politics that existed, say in the Antebellum South. Keri Leigh Merritt has this great book Masterless Men about poor whites in the south and they were politically dispossessed in the same voting restrictions that they're trying to enact in many of these states today existed for poor whites. If you couldn't prove your residency, you couldn't vote. And so what you had was a southern aristocracy, which ruled for itself. High levels of political instability, high levels of inequality in the Antebellum South at that time. And it stemmed from active discouragement of political participation from certain groups.
DL: And so I do think that one of the largest hindrances is this exclusionary push in the United States to groups because that political exclusion is really the seed where everything else can grow.
CW: Mm-hmm. And it frames, you have framed so importantly, the stakes involved right now in our conversations about voter rights and voter restrictions. Question from a student. How have the different racial histories of the US North and West also affected the economic progress and policy for black Americans? And I know that you're... There's so much interesting work happening, that complicates the idea that the North was a racial utopia. And then looking at what's been happening in the South over time. Can you talk a little bit about that?
DL: Yeah, one of the things that my work, in particular my work on public accommodations, has shown is that the idea that there was some stark difference between the West and in the North is really much more mythology than empirical truth. The very first lunch-counter protest that I have evidence of happened in Chicago in the 1940s. In actually 1943, 1944. And so we don't... When we think about lunch-counter protests, we think about Greensboro, North Carolina. No, the lunch-counter protests were in Chicago, Illinois. A city we would think of as being highly integrated. It already experienced a great migration of African-Americans from the South, but yet was practicing these exclusionary policies. Even if we think about places of that it's not the case that there's de facto and de jure, and we know that that occurs. And that is really one of the ways in which race in America can have explicit and implicit policies. So we don't see differences in segregation patterns, for example, in my earlier work that vary geographically by area. So we have this segregation pattern that exists in the United States period it isn't something that differs. What does differ are racial concentrations and the groups more likely to be subject to some of these restrictive policies.
DL: So if I'm in the West, we can see policies targeted, for example, at the Latina population and targeted at Asian-American in particular because they have higher levels of density there relative to other groups, but it's that same pattern of exclusion, but I wouldn't say that racist practices are geographically distinct, at least as I've been able to measure them quantitatively in terms of what people have actually done.
CW: Mm-hmm. And then we have one more question from a student. And this student was really intrigued by your points about the failures of appropriate distribution of some of the COVID-19 ADA policies, making sure that things get into the hands of households and families. Can you talk more about the challenges of this implementation and deployment? And can you point to any examples of successful models for distributing that support, where the resources were able to get into the hands of families and what do we know about their experiences as a result?
DL: Yeah, one thing that we're we were able to get resources into the hands of families was through unemployment insurance and that distribution and that appears to have been quite successful over time. And largely that same system is what's working with the tax system. It's working to distribute these refundable child tax credits. Now there are cleavages in that system. For example, say you are a grandparent who is taking care of a grandchild, you would have been one of the recipients of that. And you may not be recorded in the system. And so there are these administrative hurdles that people reach. And also we have this large population, particularly those who are at the most extreme and at the lowest income who are largely unbanked. And given the way that we distribute this, my friend, Dr. Lisa Cook at Michigan State University has long said, "Why isn't the IRS using Venmo and Cash App because everybody else seems to be using it but the government." That would be a huge boon to those who are unbanked in being able to access resources. And so I think that there are some ways in which policy can do this. But I do want to say one of these studies in policy implementation is even to sign up for the benefits through the IRS website, it was not formatted for a cellular phone. It wasn't formatted for a phone.
DL: So if you needed to access this, imagine being a grandparent, not in the records of anywhere for the dependent write-in, now taking care of your grandchild. You need to go, in the pandemic, to a public library that has some internet access and sign up for this. There are some community groups that are linking people to those resources. But once again, as I was talking about this is institutions learning who our students are. The federal government is now learning who are responsible for these child dependents. And it's not always this traditional nuclear family with parents who are employed and receive W-2s at the end of the year. And so our knowledge of who we're dealing with, I'm hoping will inform policy changes as we implement policies forward. Because I think one of the key issues in implementation is we have in our head who the recipient population is and the reality many times is quite different, and it's in those gaps that we see that there are already existing social inequalities, which can be strengthened unless we actually attune to implementation issues.
CW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Excellent, excellent ideas. And I think you also have inspired some potential dissertation and thesis projects with flagging that for many people who weren't aware of the issue. So we've come to the end of our inaugural Racial Foundations of Public Policy conversation. And Dr. Logan, you've given us so much. And what I take away in addition to all of the really important ideas that you've surfaced for us is you are such a model for public facing scholarship in terms of your audiences, the issues that you're taking up, the analytical approaches that you're using. You are such a role model for so many of us, faculty, staff, students alike. And I wonder if you could just offer some parting thoughts in terms of what do you think in terms of where do we go from here in our ongoing struggle with the racial foundations of public policy?
DL: I think one of the things is, as we uncover the ways in which race has informed, even policies that might observably be race neutral to the present, and as it's doubled down through the dynamic process of history itself, particularly intergenerational transmission and persistence, it's important for us to continue to assert that race has been important, and therefore must continue to be important as an area of remedy, those inequities that have been in response to races. I'm always reminded of Thurgood Marshalls quotation in talking about we have had these explicitly race bound policies from Plessy versus Ferguson to Dred Scott, and all those other decisions, and now you want to tell me that race shouldn't matter at all. But race did matter in a whole lot of ways for a whole lot of things that have led us to this point. So we can't then just say, "Well, race won't matter, and now it's okay. We're just gonna move to this race neutrality," because that's just not been the situation.
CW: Right. Or to even talk about race is divisive.
DL: Yeah, that race is divisive. Race is just inherently something that's divisive. But we've been talking about race forever before the United States was the United States. One of the first breaks of British common law happened in Virginia when the status of a child born to a negro woman was determined to be her status which is where we have intergenerational enslavement. That is a break with British common law because you should attain the status of your father, not the status of your mother. Kings and queens of England have used that to ascend to the throne, but we don't have that for the enslaved. That is a racially colored process. And so from the very beginnings of that, we have infused race into that. And you cannot get away from it. And I think that is the... The word of hope is that it's absolutely okay to understand that. I think what we want to do is we wanna put race to bed. We wanna put race behind us. But the problem is we can't do that until we actually face it.
DL: And facing it is not something that I believe will be complete in my lifetime because we've been facing race since before the United States was the United States. So to deal forthrightly with these issues, we have to be honest of the fact of how central race was in the formation of our nation and the formation of policies that we've enacted up until this point in the year 2021. And then with that honesty, we can go forward in the present and hopefully craft a different set of realities and policy initiatives and actually policy promises that would fulfill really the promises of the United States as a representative democracy.
CW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And I dwell in the place of that possibility, and I thank you so much for participating in this discussion. Thank you to all who have joined us today, faculty, staff, students, alumns, guests of the Ford School community, supporters of the Ford School community, members of the University of Michigan wider community. We truly appreciate you joining us today. Thank you so much. Please visit our website to get information about our next event at the Center for Racial Justice, fill out our information to join our list serve. And we thank you again for being with us today, and thank you so much Dr. Logan, for being with us.
DL: Thank you so much for having me.