Researching Public Law and Public Policy in the Public Interest

Measuring Regional Equity

David Rusk



The ultimate objective of regional equity activities is to reform those policies and practices that create and sustain social, racial, economic and environmental inequalities among cities, suburbs and rural areas -- and to bridge the gap between marginalized people and places and the region’s structures of social and economic opportunity.  In my book Inside Game/Outside Game, I described three domains of work:

· Revitalizing neighborhoods and urban markets as assets and key building blocks of a healthy region (Inside Game)

· Reforming local, regional and state policies and practices in order to advance social and economic equity within a region (Outside Game)

· Linking the needs of a region’s economically isolated and racially segregated residents with opportunity structures throughout a region (Regional Equity)

Too often, however, such statements are translated into “input goals” (e.g. dollars spent) or “process goals” (e.g. institutional capacity enhanced).   Even “output goals” (e.g. affordable housing built) may not be clearly related to achieving greater equity or (for example, depending on where affordable housing is built) may even be counterproductive.

This paper will define specific, measurable “outcome goals” for achieving greater regional equity.   Its primary concern will be people: “economically isolated and racially segregated residents.”   Its secondary concern will be places: the political jurisdictions that divide up a region.   Its focus will be on reducing “inequalities” between those persons and places and both the rest of the society and the matrix of local governments  within which they are largely isolated.  However, I will also pay attention to tangible measures of improved well being for the entire society.   It would be a hollow victory to achieve greater regional equity through impoverishing the many rather than lifting up the few (In the past century income disparities among different economic groups narrowed most during the Great Depression). 

This paper will focus primarily on measures of socioeconomic outcomes, educational outcomes, and (for jurisdictions) fiscal outcomes.   For these outcomes data are regularly available for all metropolitan areas.

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