The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but it’s been a lot harder for some. Here in the United States, we’ve seen how huge gaps in income, access to healthcare, and quality of education are being exacerbated by these extraordinary times. In the second episode of our podcast, Rashida and I ask a big question that has never felt more urgent: is inequality inevitable?
Melinda and I started our foundation twenty years ago because we believed that everyone everywhere deserved an equal opportunity to thrive. But in order to address inequities, you need to know exactly where—and for whom—they exist. Few people understand these issues in the United States better than Harvard economist Raj Chetty. Rashida and I were pleased he could join us to talk about his groundbreaking research on economic mobility, which measures a person’s ability to move up the income ladder.
Raj’s data provides fascinating and often surprising insights into where opportunity exists on the neighborhood level. I was particularly interested in his findings about two areas in central Los Angeles: Watts and Compton. Even though their neighborhoods are mere miles apart and demographically similar, a child born in a very low-income family in Compton is much more likely to earn a decent income, avoid incarceration, and escape poverty than one born in Watts.
We asked Compton’s mayor, Aja Brown, to come on the podcast and help us understand why. I am so impressed by the work she’s done to make her city better, especially her gang intervention program. Even though many of the initiatives Mayor Brown has created might not work in every city, civic leaders and policymakers can learn a lot from her about assessing and addressing a community’s specific needs. Compton’s success gives me hope for the future.