In order to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people, faster, we need to prioritize equity. Democratizing equity data is one step forward.

Living Cities is open sourcing our 2014 annual report, asking folks to respond to the question: “What will it take to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people faster?” This blog is a response to that question. In the coming weeks, we will showcase a diversity of points of view around this question. Learn more about the event and follow the conversation on social media with #NewUrbanPractice.

To see dramatic, sustained improvements in the life chances and outcomes of low-income people, we need to put equity—racial and economic inclusion—at the heart of our strategies for economic growth, competitiveness and prosperity. An inclusive growth model would produce many more good jobs and transform low-wage jobs into good jobs, while creating real pathways for those who’ve been excluded to participate in building a strong, sustainable, next economy. As communities of color become the new majority and the research proves that inclusion and diversity go hand-in-hand with economic strength, equity has become more than the right thing to do: it is an absolute economic imperative.

While data is now ubiquitous, it is often like Coleridge’s famous line: “Water, water, everywhere; nor any drop to drink.”

Data that is disaggregated by race/ethnicity and available at the regional level (and below) is a fundamental building block for advancing inclusive growth. Regions are the key economic units in the global economy and where equitable growth strategies need to be incubated and scaled. Data that describe and track the state of equity in regions can be the spark and fuel for inclusive growth strategies. But while data is now ubiquitous, it is often like Coleridge’s famous line: “Water, water, everywhere; nor any drop to drink.”

PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (PERE) built the National Equity Atlas to solve this challenge and put relevant data into the hands of those working to create more inclusive, resilient, prosperous regions. At the click of a button, you can access 21 field-tested indicators of demographic change, racial and economic inclusion, and the economic benefits of equity for largest 150 regions, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and nationwide. You’ll also find downloadable and shareable charts, explanations of why the indicator matters for equitable growth, policy ideas and examples, and in-depth profiles for several regions.

The Policy Link National Equity Atlas

We built the Atlas to democratize data and make it easy for you to understand, discuss, and use. We’ve seen how equity data can bring together new cross-sector collaborations, strengthen advocacy, and inform new policies and strategies:

  • In Rhode Island, data revealing that communities of color are driving growth in the state yet face major barriers to economic opportunity inspired then-Governor Chafee to open a new Office of Diversity, Equity, and Opportunity focused on inclusive hiring and contracting in government jobs.

  • In New Orleans (a Living Cities Integration Initiative partner), the stark data point that 52% of the city’s working-age black males—a total of 34,500 men—were jobless prompted Mayor Landrieu to launch an Economic Opportunity Strategy to connect these men to jobs coming online at the city’s major anchor institutions.

  • In Denver and New York City, advocates used transportation equity data to build broader coalitions and expand transit access for communities of color.

  • Cross-sector collaborations in Houston, Kansas City, Omaha, Southeast Florida, and in North Carolina’s Cape Fear, Piedmont Triad and Research Triangle, regions are using this data to craft shared narratives about the economic imperative of equity and inform regional development strategies.

Data itself is not social change. But data can power the bolder, smarter, more targeted strategies that America’s regions need to leverage their increasing diversity as an asset and secure a bright economic future for all of their residents.

Image credit: Policy Link National Equity Atlas and indicators.