Race at root of disparities: Immigration, language barriers don’t explain gap, Met Council says

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's racial disparities may be more about skin color and ethnic background and less about circumstances than many people think.

MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota’s racial disparities may be more about skin color and ethnic background and less about circumstances than many people think.

Minnesotans of color are more likely to be young people or recent immigrants or have developing English language skills, but even when those challenges are accounted for, they are still worse off than their white peers, a new report from the Metropolitan Council found.
After the study’s authors used statistical modeling to remove demographic differences in age, immigration status and education levels, they found Minnesota’s black, Latino and Asian residents were paid less and fewer owned homes than white residents.
The researchers used U.S. Census data for their analysis. They found that addressing demographic differences did help close some of the gaps, but even with the same advantages as white residents disparities persisted.
For example, black residents earn an average hourly wage of $15.91 compared to $23.78 for white residents. When demographic differences are accounted for, that hourly wage gap is more than cut in half, but not eliminated, with black residents earning an average hourly wage of $20.52.
The Met Council researchers found similar disparities in employment and homeownership rates.
“This suggests race, or factors closely aligned with race, are indeed at the heart of disparities,” the report says.
Minnesota’s population is about 80 percent white. Roughly a quarter of Twin Cities residents are people of color, and the Met Council expects that population to grow to 40 percent by 2040.
Gov. Mark Dayton said the report emphasized the need for state lawmakers approve legislation and new spending to address racial gaps in academic and economic outcomes.
“The inequities afflicting Minnesotans of color in education, income, employment and housing require additional state investments immediately,” Dayton said in a statement.
State lawmakers have introduced an abundance of bills this legislative session that they say are aimed at addressing the state’s racial disparities. They range in focus from improving access to preschool, to workforce development grants, to recruiting a more diverse educator workforce.
A newly formed equity committee, an offshoot of the Senate Finance Committee, debated 19 bills Monday that were all aimed at improving job prospects for Minnesotans of color.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-led House have yet to find common ground on the best way to address the state’s racial disparities.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members, including Dayton, want to increase spending on programs they believe will close academic and economic gaps. Republicans favor modest new spending paired with policy changes such as expanding options for students who attend struggling schools.
The two parties will have to compromise to approve any meaningful changes during the 2016 Legislature that concludes in May. Researchers with the Metropolitan Council plan to present their findings Wednesday at the group’s regular meeting.

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