Thursday, January 7, 2016

An open letter to Amy Liu, vice president of the Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution

Dear Amy Liu:

I want to compliment you on your recent statement outlining goals and aspirations for the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program in the coming years. You articulate a great vision and mission and some very good goals for the future.

I will say that I am sitting in a co-working space in Cambridge, MA as I write this, and as I know you know, all the immediate evidence indicates that the start-up economy works for a very small segment of the broader demographic.  This room is filled with white men (and some white women) aged 24-39. There are some outliers (I am older, for example) but there are NO African-Americans or Hispanics whatsoever and any people of color are immigrant in origin, in a room that currently has about 25 people sitting in it.  

I also recently saw what I would call a very worrying statistic, and so unexpected even to me who cares about these issues -- I'm quoting from memory but the Boston Fed found that median wealth for whites (assets minus liabilities) was about $247,500, while median wealth for blacks was $8 (here's a link to the study: http://www.bostonfed.org/commdev/color-of-wealth/).  All I can say is "huh"?! That's hardly a cup of coffee in today's economy.

I know you think about all of this every day, and I wish you all the best in your work going forward. The challenges are great, and the barriers to effective change are hard to overcome.  But it's important work and I am glad to know that you and your team will be fully engaged as we all move forward.

Sincerely,

Sam Seidel

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