Inside INdiana Business

Study outlines ways to improve economic equity in Indy

Chris Holcomb is a program analyst at the IU Public Policy Institute. (photo courtesy of IU)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A new report from the Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy at the IU Public Policy Institute aims to provide a road map for economic growth in Indianapolis. The research, born out of a partnership between the Indy Chamber and the Brookings Institution, centers on developing strategies that focus on broadening economic equity and inclusion. Chris Holcomb, a program analyst at the PPI, says the report includes recommendations that the city can use to rectify environmental and economic disparities.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Holcomb said previous research shows traditional metrics of economic prosperity aren’t enough.

“There’s also other aspects that matter for how much people are able to participate [in the economy] and so things like wealth and asset poverty are really important. Neighborhood-level factors are really important and access to public services as well,” said Holcomb. “That’s kind of how we constructed our framework is combining all of those factors so we can get more of a comprehensive view that’s true to how people experience economic prosperity in their lives.”

Holcomb says analysts looked at a variety of indicators of what economic inclusion looks like in Indianapolis. They found significant gaps in access to resources or economic opportunity along racial and income lines.

“What it means is that, despite our best intentions of our policies, the impacts of the policies we create may not always translate to actual inclusion for people on the ground,” he said. “And so the recommendations are if we really want to achieve inclusion for everybody, we have to take into account those gaps in wealth and address policies that actually engage with the challenges and the systemic issues that people are facing.”

The report identifies four focus areas for future equitable economic development strategies: existing assets and wealth; economic pathways to success; equitable communities; and access to housing, education, transportation, healthcare, and childcare opportunities.

Analysts outlined 10 recommendations to help the city improve its economic equity and inclusion, such as:

  • Focusing economic development on initiatives that create wealth-building and entrepreneurship opportunities for systemically disadvantaged groups.
  • Focusing policy on increasing homeownership opportunities for systemically disadvantaged groups and enabling the construction of new affordable housing. 
  • Directing public funding from higher-income special tax districts to lower-income areas that need it most.
  • Adopt a “health in all policies” approach to ensure public health and environmental justice are considered in evaluating all new programs or investments.
  • Increasing the availability of other important prerequisites for fully participating in an economy, such as health care and public transportation.

“We hope that people will see the recommendations and respond to those,” said Holcomb. “But we’re also working with Indy Chamber to try to build this out into a shared accountability framework for the community moving forward and are hoping to make the data available in a dashboard so that it’s accessible to people in the community and it can be some of that shared accountability mechanism to really gauge how the region is doing on these issues of equity and inclusion.”

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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