Nov. 16, 2018

New KCEG report: Opportunities abound to remove barriers for communities of color in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kansas — In the latest edition of its Health and Prosperity Index (HAPI) report, the Kansas Center for Economic Growth takes a bracing look at economic, education, and health outcomes in the Sunflower State. Unlike its 2016 report, which compared Kansas with regional neighbors, KCEG’s 2018 update focuses on the barriers to opportunity faced by Kansans of color and identifies commonsense policy solutions.

People of color in the United States have faced discrimination and obstacles to progress in all aspects of life for more than 250 years. However, with changing demographics across Kansas, the failure to address these barriers will have economic, educational, and health ramifications for every single resident.

Between 1980 and 2010, the number of people of color living in Kansas more than doubled, from 9.5 percent of the population in 1980 to 21.8 percent of the population in 2010. By 2050, it is estimated that people of color in Kansas will make up 38.8 percent of the population.

“The writing is on the wall,” said Kansas Center for Economic Growth Director Emily Fetsch. “We need to be talking today about targeted solutions that will transform communities and allow every Kansan to thrive.”

The data included in the HAPI report highlights the long-lasting consequences of historic and current systemic racism in Kansas. Examples include:

  • Greater likelihood of experiencing poverty, due to barriers to homeownership and wealth accumulation, which can be traced to the discriminatory practice of limiting where people of color could buy homes and access to full employment;
  • Reliance on local funding, which results in differences in educational investment and, therefore, outcomes; and
  • Continued racial discrimination in the health care system, criminal justice system, and the workplace.

Make no mistake: These barriers facing Kansans of color resulted from intentional and systemic policies and procedures. But while obstacles to opportunity have been generations in the making, we can work to dismantle them. KCEG’s earlier work ending the catastrophic Brownback tax experiment shows that we can accomplish great things for everyone in the state.

The HAPI report highlights targeted state policies including paid family leave, access to high-quality early education, and addressing infant and maternal health. Together, we can demolish barriers facing Kansans of color and improve economic, education, and health outcomes for every Kansan.

“We’re highlighting a suite of options that mutually reinforce one another and allow for long-term growth,” Fetsch said. “Kansas’ economy is not built on dollars and cents – it depends on the people who live, work, and play here. Proven policy changes will improve Kansans’ economic standing, educational attainment, and health outcomes to create a prosperous future.”

The full 2018 Health and Prosperity Index report can be read here.

ClayNew KCEG report: Opportunities abound to remove barriers for communities of color in Kansas