Economists: Increased Equality For Women And African-Americans Has Boosted U.S. Productivity

Posted on May 18, 2012

Think Progress, May 18, 2012 by Pat Garofalo

Reuters’ Chrystia Freelend today rounded up the economic evidence that equal rights, including equal pay for women and laws against discrimination, help boost the overall economy. One study by four economists even found that expanding opportunities for women and African Americans over the last 50 years has offered a serious boost to U.S. productivity growth:

Fairness, they contend, has made the economy more productive. Chang-Tai Hsieh, Erik Hurst, Charles Jones and Peter Klenow argue that as much as 20 percent of the growth in productivity in the United States over the past 50 years can be attributed to expanded opportunities for women and blacks.

“Changes in things that have affected women or blacks specifically have yielded a sizable impact on overall U.S. earnings growth,” Hurst told me. “That is a big effect.”

Of course, the U.S. still has a long way to go in terms of equality, but the evidence suggests that more equality would be economically beneficial to everyone.

In a paper released yesterday, Center for American Progress economists Heather Boushey and Adam Hersh laid out the economic case for reducing income inequality, noting that a strong middle class is a necessary component of economic growth. In the last 30 years, however, the middle class has been eroding, as the richest Americans take a larger and larger share of the national income, hurting not only economic growth but economic mobility.


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