What could the people of a Pennsylvania county do with $2 billion? Maybe feed and house those in need. Lift every school to excellence. Fuel dreams of entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency.
In Lancaster County, eliminating racial income gaps would inject an additional $1.9 billion into its GDP. That finding caps the groundbreaking Lancaster County Racial Equity Profile – the first in Pennsylvania – released in January 2023.
Now, in a bit of cross-cultural sharing, registrants for The Library’s March 16 Live and Learn – Animating Democracy: Race, Culture and Identity – will learn how those Lancaster County findings reveal lessons for achieving racial equity in Dauphin County.
Featured speaker Stacie Blake, CEO of Lancaster YWCA, will share lessons learned from the 2021 Lancaster County Racial Equity Profile. Like other YWCAs nationwide, the Lancaster YWCA has a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. The Lancaster YWCA joined a diverse array of community organizations in business and social services to commission the profile and create a fact-based foundation for battling the consequences of racial inequities.
Blake will address the significance of using data to drive transformative policies and institute community change. While overall data can depict the state of a county, breaking down data by subsets provides a much more telling look at challenges experienced among people by race, ethnicity, gender, and age.
As Lancaster’s profile revealed, Black and Latinx residents are continuing to drive county growth but remain much likelier to endure measurable inequities in employment, wages, education, housing, and health outcomes.
“When we see an equity gap that is so far different from our demographics, then we really need to understand that is not the result of me making a bad choice, or you making a bad choice,” Blake says. “It’s the result of systems we can change and policies we can change.”
Data can also upend common notions, such as the idea that poverty is exclusively a city problem, when it is actually spread countywide. While a profile of this sort is sweeping, Blake sees opportunities for community residents and policymakers to find an issue that motivates them and seek out systemic solutions.
“I want to expose people to it because there’s an opportunity for anyone to find something that’s meaningful to them,” she says. “Do you care about children in poverty? Do you care more about GDP or affordable housing? There something there that most of us acting as community leaders can work on.”
A projection of Lancaster County’s demographic makeup expects the Latinx population to increase from 11 percent to 20 percent by 2050, and the Black population from 4 percent to 6 percent. From the perspective of policymakers and business owners, a peek into the future reveals “an insight into who your customers will be, who your workers will be, who your students will be,” said Blake.
By bringing the equity profile to Dauphin County, Blake hopes to raise awareness that every community can learn how to ask more probing questions.
“I would absolutely encourage any community to take a look at their data,” Blake says. “If it is not time to do a full profile like this in your county, there is still a reason to ask follow-up questions every time you’re presented with the basic data. Ask to have it broken out by gender, broken out by race. Now you’re really going to start to see a picture emerge.”
Equity profiles also hold community leaders and institutions accountable to addressing the community’s genuine challenges, says Blake, who says she is now “kind of stubborn” about digging below the surface. Communities can begin the process by using fact-based profiles to launch essential discussions.
“Let’s not be afraid to talk about equity,” she says. “Sometimes, people seen afraid that somehow it would mean less for them, and that’s not what this is about. This is about making sure that people have access and opportunity so that everyone can thrive.”