People of color in Washington state are challenged by a system that limits their access to equal opportunities, such as a high quality education, good jobs, and quality health care. A report released today, Facing Race, provides a detailed analysis showing how stark racial inequality is in Washington state and outlines what lawmakers can do to reverse the trends.
The conditions for a strong economy and high quality of life are ripe when our workforce is healthy and engaged, people have opportunities to obtain an education, and all communities are represented in decision-making. But these opportunities are not shared equally. For example:
- A good job is the foundation for economic security, but Black and Latino workers have higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to be in a job that pays a lower wage than the overall population.
- Good health is central to a good quality of life, yet nearly one in three Latinos and one in four American Indians and Alaska Natives lack health care coverage.
- A high-quality early learning experience is crucial to a child’s future, yet three out of four Latino children are not enrolled in preschool.
- Higher levels of education equate to better job security and increased wages, but Latinos, American Indians, and Alaska Natives face the biggest hurdles to college enrollment.
- A strong democracy is dependent on equal representation, but the racial and ethnic composition of the State Legislature does not reflect the state’s diversity. People of color comprise 29 percent of the state’s population, but less than 10 percent of the State Legislature (see graphics).
The good news is that lawmakers can take steps to increase access to opportunity and reduce inequality. The Facing Race report outlines 20 recommendations for lawmakers in the 2015 legislative session, including raising the state’s minimum wage, fully restoring food assistance, and permanently eliminating the death penalty.
As our state continues to become more racially diverse, we cannot allow gaps in opportunity to continue to limit the economic well-being and quality of life of Washingtonians. Letting any group fall behind is detrimental to the prosperity of our state.
Click here to read the full report.