Social Equity in the United States

Sustainability initiatives improve economic health and citizens’ well-being. Among these efforts, legislators and community organizations work together to increase social equity so all who live here may have equal opportunity. However, to be sure, many individuals and leaders of minority communities can point to evidence that the U.S. is far from providing equality for all.

Diversity in Business

Social Equity Watchdogs

Policylink along with the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) gathers data drawn from research on 100 cities and 150 metropolitan regions in the United States. The partnership seeks to promote equality for all U.S. citizens and, as a result, facilitate national economic health. The collective predicts that by 2044 minorities will be the majority of the population, citing studies that minorities lead population growth. One concern, reports the group, data since 1979 indicates minority groups have earned significantly less income, with a continuing slow, borderline-stagnant decline.

Social Inequality Affects Everyone

As defined by the NASPAA, diversity is “the differences relating to social identity categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and veteran status.” Diversity is the answer for long-term sustainability. Yet, as the nation’s population increases in diversity, that diversity is less reflected in the prosperity of the nation. Disparities are concerns in in:

  • Academic advancement
  • Annual income
  • Employment opportunities
  • Financial status
  • Physical and mental well-being

One gap exists between job openings and employment-related preparation in minority communities. With almost half of all jobs requiring an associate’s degree by 2020, it will be very difficult to fill these forecasted job openings unless we provide our new and youthful workers the essential talents. As a result, economists and legislators recognize that education gaps slow economic growth. This current course is weakening the country with an economy-damaging skilled labor shortage.

Why the Conversation Matters

Internationally, governments have joined the movement to foster sustainability by working with government bodies, community organizations and private enterprises to stop unsustainable practices and improve conditions. However, current United States programs commonly do not serve all three sustainability objectives – environmental health, economic well-being and social equity, with the American programs often abating or overlooking the social equity component.

Most municipal, state and federal entities have made progress with environmental and energy initiatives, but have had less success in assuring progress in social equity. By better cultivating social equity, programs are effective and better serve entire communities, which improves long-term sustainability.

Social Equity Is a Longstanding Principle

From early theorists such as Henri Fayol to the present, researchers communicate and acknowledge humankind’s desire for equality, noting that while facilitating industrial advancement is important, it is equally essential to satisfy human desires. Concerning this, President Woodrow Wilson related that it is easier to state this fact rather than practice social equity.

Social Equity Initiatives in Action

In the United States, various sustainability initiatives aim to improve urban living conditions for minorities. Seattle 2035 is one sustainability agenda developed to serve an expected population increase of 120,000 over the next two decades. The biennial Greentopia Future Cities Summit, founded in 2011, hosts officials from around the country at a conference in New York City to discuss reducing transportation, housing and energy costs and creating academic and career opportunities. These and other public private partnerships exemplify the many sustainability initiatives around the country.

Opinions and Forecasts on Social Equity

According to Pew Research, 43% of African-Americans do not believe increased social equity will materialize soon, if at all. As for polled white citizens, 38% already feel our country has made the necessary changes to bring social equity while another 40% believe our country will eventually make the changes needed. Clearly, both groups have divided opinions over whether society should focus on cultural differences, as opposed to commonalities, to make the adjustments needed for change.

Training helps to diminish income disparities. There are cultural, gender, and socioeconomic difference regarding opinions as to whether discrimination occurs more from individual beliefs and behaviors or as a residual of past societal and institutional roadblocks. Despite the increase in the social equity conversation, economic disparity slowly increases, even though minority poverty levels have decreased.
Legislators and civic organizations are working together to improve social equity through allocation of public goods and improved economic conditions to support local communities. All over the United States, officials and community leaders gather regularly to discuss social equity issues and how to address them. While some in the public may be skeptical about the future, most are confident that over time all our people will have more fair shares of the economic opportunities and social prosperity that draws so many from around the world to this country.

Learn More

By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you will be taking an important first step toward pursuing your professional goals and commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become effective managers and civic leaders who affect change through policy management and advocacy.


Diversity Definition. (2016, June 22). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
Data Summaries | National Equity Atlas. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
Murray, E. (2015, April 02). Seattle 2035: Growing to achieve race and social equity. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
NYC Parks: Framework for an Equitable Future. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart. (2016, June 27). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
PolicyLink. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from
Siegel, R. (2015, October 29). Future Cities Summit Ties Sustainability, Social Equity, Clean Energy And Scale. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from

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