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Social Movements and Governing Power

From 2008 to 2019, the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI) published reports under our previous name, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). 

April 2015

By Manuel Pastor, Jennifer Ito, and Vanessa Carter
Commissioned by The Generations Initiative

The nation is a-buzz about its majority multi-ethnic future. By 2044, the U.S. is predicted to become a majority-minority nation. Since 2011, the majority of births have been to people of color, and by the end of the decade, the majority of youth will be of color. But across the nation, regional stakeholders and decision makers are asking what this means for the future. What is the impact and how should they respond?

Demographic change rarely proceeds without tension—just think of Phoenix and Ferguson. A more subtle but pervasive response comes in the form of public disinvestment (e.g., in public education). Older and politically powerful generations no longer see themselves in the younger generation and are pulling up the public-spending drawbridge. The result: Under-educated and under-prepared youth will not be able to support the nation’s tax base, assume the roles and responsibilities of retirees, and more. The failure to invest is bad for all.

Bridging the racial generation gap is about the American future. It will require innovative organizing, creative policies, and hard-nosed politics, but it will also require a backbone of strong, accurate, and eye-opening data read through an equity lens. We suggest that the racial generation gap is too often approached from a fear-based reality instead of a fact-based one.

In this report, we take a data-driven approach. With such a foundation, we can come to new understandings of the challenges, start reconnecting across differences, and work together toward the possibilities ahead.

The report offers:

  • A look at the racial generation gap, nationally, and the consequences for all of us if we leave it unbridged.
  • Numbers and narratives for three regions—Fresno, CA; Charlotte, NC; and the Twin Cities region, MN-WI—each illustrating a common type of demographic change happening in other regions across the nation.
  • Conversational frames in which to set demographic profiles so as to have values-based conversations as well as two areas towards which the data points: metrics and shoring up civic engagement.

We hope that what we have offered will enable others to consider and compile data profiles and data systems that can become a backbone for conversations that bridge across race and generation.

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

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