Farai Chideya Where we put research dollars to solve medical and public-health problems will have a big impact on that. Cancer-research dollars have been flat in the public sector for years, despite some big advances in genomics and treatment. I still believe, with all the private innovators around, that government plays a key role in research.
Vivek Wadhwa Government funding for basic research is important and needed. But in this exponential era, entrepreneurs can do what only governments and big research labs could before—solve big problems.
Farai Chideya I’m a huge fan of public-private partnerships. Part of the reason for the sharp decline in African-American employment was our reliance on public-sector jobs. They need to create alliances with industry.
Until the civil rights movement, black communities were far more income-mixed. Segregation caused clusterings of black families who created some amazing communities, like two my family come from—Westmoreland County, VA (farmers), and Turner Station, MD (urban mixed-income black community, with both wealthy and poor).
Vivek Wadhwa Farai, as long as the black community looks to others to help it—in whatever form—it won’t get ahead. It has to unite and help itself.
Why does every discussion of uplifting the African-American community have to begin with government jobs or industry partnerships? Why not begin with new entrepreneurial ventures and mentorship?
Farai Chideya Black folks, in my experience, are very entrepreneurial. At one point in the past decade, black women had the highest rate of starting new businesses. But many don’t scale easily (say, daycare operator), or fail, in part due to lack of experience and/or undercapitalization.
There are businesses that feed people, and then there are businesses that build wealth for employees and investors. The barriers to access certain private jobs and private capital will require new solutions. But we should not abandon the public sector. I am no fan of the way government works. I have said to several congresspeople, “I can’t imagine going to a job every day where half of people want you to fail.”
June Cross The press has missed the calcification of social mobility. In New York, nannies and home-healthcare services are predominantly West Indian or African immigrants. They work for minimum wage, often without overtime, and until Obamacare kicks in next year, many won’t have access to healthcare themselves. (And in the nine states that refuse to expand Medicaid, there will be even more.) American society is becoming stratified in ways that summon images of India. The lack of access to a decent education has made it more and more difficult for black American children in public schools to rise above their station.
Latoya Peterson Conversations about social mobility fascinate me, because they happen in two separate spheres: the economics section, where the decline of solid middle-class jobs is documented, and the personal-interest (style) section, which illustrates the broader structural workings of poverty. I’d love to see the two converge a bit more. A [December] Washington Post piece [about Pennsylvania teenager Tabitha Rouzzo] frustrated me: The article was a voyeuristic view of poverty, with questionable items presented with no further comment or investigation. The reporter followed Tabitha’s story well, but ignored the rest of the family—and most people aren’t in poverty alone.
When Tabitha’s sister decides to stop going to school, there is no further investigation or understanding. Was she being bullied? Was she depressed? Did she, like so many others, [get] worn down by feeling like a failure each day? I feel like the relative level of privilege in the press corps leads us to miss some key aspects to stories about social mobility—links to mental health, addiction, or collapsing social systems are often under-explored. Does it make sense to have a welfare policy that discourages people from working? Does it make sense to allow a minimum wage that is not a living wage? The framework is vital.
I’ve loved the reporting on the mounting [financial] pressure on Americans, particularly the crowdsourced stories on Tumblr. Yahoo did a project called Down But Not Out, putting faces and stories to the long-term unemployed, then expanding to looking at mortgages and student loans.