Hennepin County leaders want to find new ways to tackle a long-standing problem: disparities between whites and people of color, from income to housing.
Officials met Wednesday to review fresh data, brainstorm on closing the gaps through increased departmental collaboration, discuss ways to engage the business community and look for innovative programs.
“This is a first-of-its-kind conversation,” County Board Chairwoman Jan Callison said.
Home ownership in Hennepin County varies widely among different groups, with 18 percent of black residents owning a home compared to nearly 71 percent of whites.
Eighty-six percent of white Hennepin County residents are likely to graduate from high school in four years, compared to 46 percent of American Indians and 58 percent of black students. In the Twin Cities, individuals below the federal poverty level are most likely people of color, with only 6 percent of white residents below the poverty line.
Officials estimated that eliminating the racial and ethnic income and employment disparities would mean $4.6 billion in income growth, the equivalent of 17,666 new hires in Hennepin County. With a huge need for workers by 2020 — an estimated 57,000 jobs were said to be needed in Hennepin County alone — leaders said the county has an unprecedented opportunity to address those gaps.
Officials said specific solutions are yet to be determined.
“Some of our residents are living incredibly challenging lives,” County Administrator David Hough said. “Status quo isn’t going to cut it. … We have to change our approach.”