Skip to content

Grand Rapids ranks as one of the worst cities for Inclusive Recovery

April 30, 2018

Last week, the online site Colorlines, post a story about a new study looking at how US cities with populations of 100,000 or more has dealt with the recovery since the 2007-2008 economic recession. 

Colorlines writes:

The Great Recession of 2008 forced many cities to rebuild their economies. But in many places, the recovery has been uneven, with some cities enacting policies that increase equity across racial and ethnic groups, while others widened the gaps between the haves and the have nots. A new study from nonprofit research organization Urban Institute explores which cities prioritized inclusion in their struggle for economic growth.

The study done by the Urban Institute, Inclusive Recovery in US Cities, was released just weeks ago. Their research looks at both economic inclusion and racial inclusion: 

Our overall inclusion index combines the economic inclusion and racial inclusion indices for a composite view of inclusion in a city, but the two are also analyzed separately. We distinguish between economic inclusion and racial inclusion because it is common for cities to experience economic growth while leaving certain groups behind: this is especially true for communities of color, given the longstanding history of race-based discrimination and segregation in this country (Greene, Austin Turner, and Gourevitch 2017; Kijakazi et al. 2016). We pay special attention to those cases in which economic inclusion and racial inclusion diverge, as these examples may offer important insights into whether achieving inclusion is contingent on the deliberate use of targeted policy actions that address group-based discrimination or structural barriers.

This last sentence is important, since it acknowledges targeted policy actions and group-based discrimination or structural barriers.

Grand Rapids, based on the study conducted by the Urban Institute, shows that:

In 2013, Grand Rapids ranked 267 out of 274 cities on overall inclusion, 220 on economic inclusion, and 268 on racial inclusion. From 2000 to 2013, Grand Rapids’s economic health rank decreased from 149 to 211. The city also became less inclusive, falling from 222 to 267 in the overall inclusion rankings.

Here are some graphs from the study, which looks at home Grand Rapids compares to the national trend.

At this point, some might argue that this data is based on 2013, and that since then Grand Rapids has significantly changed. I would agree that GR has changed during the past 5 years, but we have to ask ourselves who has been benefitting from that change.

As we have reported in the past, the wealth gap is larger in Grand Rapids than in any other city in Michigan. In addition, the economic development has been concentrated in certain areas of the city and has primarily benefitted those who already have economic and racial privilege. One only need to look at what is happening in downtown Grand Rapids, the near westside, especially on Bridge St, plus other areas like the Wealthy St. corridor to see who the primary beneficiaries are. Many of the same development companies have been the beneficiaries, the same wealthy families and a disproportionate number of white, urban professionals are benefitting.

I would suggest that given the trend, Grand Rapids might even been worse on the economic and racial inclusion front than it was in 2013.

Lastly, it is worth noting that when Grand Rapids ends up being on the top lists for things that are “feel good,” local entities like the Chamber of Commerce, The Right Place Inc or Experience GR are quick to use these lists to market the city. None of these organizations mention this new study and are not likely to, since it ultimately exposes the realities of neoliberal economic policies and the ongoing embrace of white supremacy.


%d bloggers like this: