Traditional economic theory has long held that there is a trade-off between equity and efficiency – in essence, contending that too much focus on fairness can damage incentives and hence economic prosperity. However, a growing body of literature has countered this notion in the developing world context, and a newer strand of research looking at the U.S. suggests that measures of regional equity or inclusion at a metropolitan level – such as residential integration by race and income as well as overall income equality within that metro – can have a positive effect on regional economic growth. PERE has been working in conjunction with Dr. Chris Benner at the University of California, Davis on a series of research looking at this issue exactly.
Director Manuel Pastor and Chris Benner’s recent book, Just Growth: Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, investigates how and why certain regions have been successful in linking equity and growth. There are a range of general conditions that seem to characterize these regions, which include: strong public sector employment and engagement; large minority middle class; educational attainment, particularly in moving people into community colleges. The research for this book was supported by the Ford Foundation.
Additional support has been provided by INET and the Ford Foundation to examine one of the intriguing findings in the initial study – the richness of an epistemic community in the region contributing to the success of the region. Members of epistemic communities, or knowledge communities typically have similar normative values and draw similar interpretations when presented with given situations. Yet in diverse communities—such as those that include members prioritizing growth or equity, or that include both experts and lay people—the processes of interaction and knowledge development are more complicated. With this study, we are examining the processes of interaction between diverse constituencies in the region, understanding how collective interpretation and knowledge generation is developed, and how these interactions extend over periods of time.