Commentary
12:30 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Past and Present: Demographics, Education and Economics

One of the consequences of the Presidential election of 2012 is an increased awareness of the changing demographics of American society. Specifically, it is projected that, by the year 2050, non-whites will constitute the majority of the American population.

In their recent book, Minority Business Success: Refocusing on the American Dream, Leonard Greenhalgh and James H. Lowry discuss the implications of America’s changing demographics on its future economy.

Credit brookesb / Flickr

One of the more cogent observations made in this important book is the following: “the most pressing problem is that today’s minorities—who are tomorrow’s employees and suppliers—are not getting the education they need to staff the workforce in the service/knowledge economy, or the help they need to fully participate in the entrepreneurial economy. This situation hurts minorities because it destines all but a few of them to remain an economic underclass; it hurts the nation because the economy can neither recover nor excel if half of the population is unable to make its full contribution to national prosperity.”

Significantly, this business-related argument for the full use of America’s “human capital” has been made before. In 1947, a U.S. Civil Rights Commission, formed by President Harry S Truman, issued a report entitled To Secure These Rights.

This document included the following observation, related to racial discrimination, by Eric Johnston, then President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “The withholding of jobs and business opportunities for some people does not make more jobs and business opportunities for others…Perpetuating poverty for some merely guarantees stagnation for all.”

Considering both historic and contemporary evidence, the call of some of today’s politicians to cut educational funding in the name of deficit reduction, is, in broader economic terms, a case of being a penny wise and a pound foolish.