A Growing Economy: Unemployment Rate Gap (White vs. of Color)

Montgomery County’s high wealth and low unemployment rate mask economic disparities as well as other warning signs, such as slow business growth and problems with office vacancies.  Maintaining and improving our quality of life depends on a strong local economy.  We need to have a business-friendly attitude and incubate the next generation of job creators.  We will start by focusing on these three measures:

Indicator 3: Unemployment Rate Gap (White vs. of Color)

About the Indicator: As Montgomery County commits itself to becoming a more equitable community, it becomes vital to understand the factors that contribute to racial disparities of all types, and work to eliminate them. A job is more than income – it is dignity and the foundation for a sustainable and prosperous future for all residents. We seek to narrow and ultimately close the difference in unemployment rates in a County where anyone can find employment irrespective of their race, ethnicity or country of origin.

The Story Behind the Curve

Positive Factors
  1. The new County Executive and Council have articulated a commitment to racial equity.
  2. An effective Racial Equity Workshop is being offered.
Negative Factors
  1. There is limited open dialogue on race between people of different races, stemming from any number of reasons including tribal mentalities and a fear of the unknown, a lack of empathy among whites and a fear of speaking out among minorities.
  2. This lack of interaction and understanding between different racial and immigrant groups impacts business owners who are siloed within their own racial groups and don’t discuss racial issues when interacting with other groups, in turn decreasing opportunity for employers and job candidates alike.
  3. The historical and current structural racism, discrimination and economic inequality (especially for Black residents) manifests itself geographically (little emphasis on jobs, education, etc. in certain parts of the County), in schools, through a lack of qualified minorities for higher-level/skilled positions (likely stemming from a lack of knowledge of potential skilled career paths and opportunities).
  4. Inequality exists in government, as demonstrated by a dearth of minorities in leadership positions with the authority to develop and implement solutions. Moreover, laws may be structured to reduce or even disallow minority participation and problems are addressed “at the stem not the root” through programs when policies are needed instead, resulting in a County that has a progressive image but not in substance.

Recommended Options/Strategies

Low Cost / No Cost Solutions
  1. Actively convene community minority group leaders to learn and grow together.
  2. Market Montgomery County as a place that values and practices equity for all (race, gender, and all dimensions of our diversity) and be strategic with communications on racial issues, tying it to business and workforce development.
  3. Address historical and structural racism within County Government, ensuring that County employees understand its effects, and consider the impact on the descendants of slaves when and the damage caused by slavery when developing County policies and programs (confront issue of reparations).
  4. Establish a permanent civil rights advisory committee that advises the County Executive on all minority/immigrant issues. [Note: The County has a Human Rights Commission]
  5. Create an ongoing scorecard under CountyStat on the state of racial equity to ensure that no minority groups are left behind in the wake of the County’s growth.
High Cost Solutions
  1. Create and appoint a minority individual as Chief Diversity/Racial Equity Officer in the Office of the County Executive, who has the power to make decisions about racial equity and justice for the community. This position should be able to: offer training opportunities with County Government; ensure that people in and across the County Government have an understanding of structural racism and that departments are applying racial equity analyses to their programs and policies; and provide “accountability reports” using performance metrics.
  2. The Minority Liaisons need to have more resources to be able to do bigger things to get better community buy-in.