In part 1 of this series, I covered the County’s role in protecting and promoting the community’s health and the connection between health and wealth. You can read that here. While it is a nice benefit of this approach that taxpayers will spend less money on health and social service programs as the health and economic prosperity of our community grows, there is another reason the County can and must take a bigger leadership role in the area of economic inclusion. That is the subject of this post.For us to have the conversation this post covers, we need to start with the understanding that this is not about blame, it is about progress. I genuinely believe we all want people to have a decent shot at a dignified life and by the time this post is over I hope you’ll see not only that the County can do something to help make that happen but that it is appropriate for the County to do so.
Why are some areas in San Diego poorer, and therefore in poorer health, than others?
In the 1930s, our government decided to create a mortgage insurance system in which it would guarantee mortgage loans in some areas but not others. The four-color mapping system included blue zones (the most desirable) and red zones (the least desirable – where guarantees were impossible or dramatically more expensive to obtain). The defining characteristic of the red zones was the presence of large concentrations of African Americans and other minority groups. Here’s a map
The neighborhood where I own my home right now is in one of the blue areas close to Balboa Park, so as a reminder this is not about blaming anyone. It isn’t my fault these rules were put in place that determined which communities would be invested in, and it isn’t your fault, either. But my neighborhood benefited from this government plan and many other people lived in parts of San Diego that were locked into generational wealth stagnation or worse. Which is to say if your grandparents couldn’t own a home and then they couldn’t pass it on to your parents and your parents couldn’t generate the home equity to pay for your school or start a business then a cycle was born (or certainly perpetuated).
What does this have to do with the County of San Diego?
The County of San Diego spends $1 Billion every year buying a range of goods and services to meet its obligations regarding public health, social services, environmental protection, land use, and a host of other areas. One of the ways the County could help spur our local economy and counteract some of the negative impacts of these discriminatory policies is to target a portion of the County’s annual spend into small businesses/non-profit organizations in these same communities. Another way to counteract the negative impacts of those policies is to support youth and minority entrepreneurship efforts. As part of a larger effort to increase the capacity of entrepreneurs to do business with the County, this will also grow the capacity of such businesses and non-profit organizations to do business with non-governmental entities as well. This is the type of shift that benefits all of our local economy. Having fewer people at the extreme end of the economic spectrum will make our future recessions shorter and less severe and make San Diego as a region more resilient.
Understanding the connection between wealth and health
We must make one more critical connection to understand why the County has a role in the economic well-being of the region. The research is clear…and overwhelming. The economic vitality of a population is directly connected to its overall health. That is, the wealth disparities our past policies created and exacerbated 80 years ago have led to a significant increase in health disparities. As the County of San Diego takes a step forward on leadership for economic opportunity, it is also taking a prudent long-term approach to reducing disease and the amount of money taxpayers spend on negative health outcomes and lost productivity. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
More information about our approach
Our Opportunity4All plan lays out a range of policies for increased County leadership in economic development, global trade, and small business/contracting inside our County borders. There are many layers of opportunity, a few examples include:
- Placing entrepreneurship and workforce development guidance inside County LiveWell centers where public assistance such as cash aid and food stamps are provided so that people can see a future even before it is fully available
- Supporting greater international trade for small businesses to bring new money into the San Diego region
- Fostering youth and minority entrepreneurship opportunities
This plan is about moving San Diego forward in a way that is inclusive and encourages economic prosperity for all San Diegans over the long term. More information is available at the links below.