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Report: Racial Disparities Cost West Michigan Millions in Lost Economic Growth

Grand Rapids - The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR), and its West Michigan Leadership Collaborative, today released a report examining the impact of racial and ethnic disparities in three areas - economic development, education and health care - on the economy of west Michigan. The report, entitled The High Cost of Disparities, is a compilation of recent research on disparities between racial and ethnic groups, shifting demographics in west Michigan, and the potential economic benefit to the region from reducing inequality.

Drawing from data on employment and wages in the greater Grand Rapids area, the study estimates the region would have enjoyed a 9% increase in total economic output for 2012 if disparities in household income among all racial groups were eliminated. Those disparities cost the region’s families more than $3.3 million in GDP in 2012 alone.

The report also examined the shifting demographics in parts of Kent County, with a current and projected increase in the population of people of color. Between 2009 and 2014, the African American population in Grand Rapids / Wyoming increased by 5%, Hispanic population by 10%, Asian population by 13% and people who identify as two or more races by 20%. In many neighborhoods, racial and ethnic minorities are becoming the majority population.

“We know that west Michigan, just like the rest of the state, is rapidly becoming more and more diverse,” said Leslee Fritz, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “At the same time, the research makes it clear that too many minority families are being left out of many economic development and educational opportunities, and access to health care. The bottom line is that west Michigan will not become the vibrant economic region it can be until these disparities are eliminated.”

The study was conducted by Tamber Bustance of the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College, and Eric Williams, Executive Director for Equity Affairs at Grand Rapids Community College. The report was funded through a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The West Michigan Leadership Collaborative was created by MDCR and is comprised of representatives of the area’s civil rights, human rights, and social justice organizations, government agencies, and leaders of the business community. The Collaborative’s mission is to facilitate common strategies and cooperative resources development to enhance our common impact in civil and human rights issues. The Collaborative aims to:

  • Prevent or resolve civil and human rights concerns in the region;
  • Sustain existing initiatives;
  • Create new initiatives aimed at enhancing the overall quality of life for residents of West Michigan.

Find the full report here.