We envision America’s cities as engines for national prosperity and individual economic opportunity for all people. Implicit in this vision is the need for economic growth. Over the last five decades, economic growth has played out very differently in places where Living Cities is funding teams of leaders to address complex social problems. In places like Detroit, economic growth within the city has been limited by the decline of the population, suburbanization, and globalization. As a result, those residents who have remained have been burdened by legacy structures and mindsets, and constricted opportunity. In contrast, in places like San Francisco globalization has been a powerful force for economic growth, but economic disparity between the city’s wealthy and poor has also grown exponentially.

By-and-large, American cities are not creating opportunities to grow wealth among low-income residents. Which is why we invited Professor Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity, at University of Southern California to speak to Living Cities Integration Initiative grantees. In recent years, Dr. Pastor’s work has focused on understanding how growth and equity can work together, and what strategies can make it a reality. In his book Just Growth with co-author Chris Brenner, he asserts:

“We need, in short, more than just growth (or growth alone); we need instead “just growth,” a framework in which the imperatives of equity have been coupled with strategies to shore up the macro-economy, spur new industrial development, and re-regulate the financial system. Such a new framework will require a stretch on the part of business leaders, many of whom have long been concerned about economic expansion but not worried much about equity – and it will also require a commitment and an analytical stretch by those that have long fought for “economic justice” but have not always thought about how best to promote the economic part of that couplet.

Fortunately, in our efforts to promote both growth and equity, we don’t need to start from scratch–long before the national meltdown helped to make this point, the notion that inequality might actually damage economic growth was gaining ground at a metropolitan scale in a growing number of regions across the country.”

What follows are 15 insights from Dr. Pastor’s March 12 conversation with Living Cities CEO Ben Hecht: http://bit.ly/1eLgiBI.

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