However, proponents argue that improving infrastructure in areas most suffering from poor transport or even clean water could mean future productivity gains. The “location-based” investments planned by the Biden administration have never been attempted on this scale, and the details will be of tremendous importance. The need is certainly there.
Liberal think-tank Demos found in 2017 that Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Latino workers commute on public transit at much higher rates than white workers, an inequality that is stronger in certain metropolitan areas. In Atlanta, Latino workers are 6.6 times more likely than white workers to be without a car, while African-Americans are six times more likely than white workers in Minneapolis to be without a car. Color workers are also much more likely to commute using public transport, which each take at least an hour.
However, the effects of aging infrastructure on poor communities go well beyond transport. “People and families in poverty are exposed to environmental hazards that are common in low-income communities; In old, shabby homes that can cause asthma, respiratory infections, lead poisoning, learning disabilities, behavioral and mental health problems, injuries, etc. The term “brain damage, cancer, and other harmful conditions,” “wrote Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University, in 2017.
“With this package, we’re trying to get the most out of every American city and make it happen across the country,” said a tax official. “It’s not just about growing the economic pie. It’s about making better use of our existing resources.”
One of the best ways to eradicate inequality and fuel growth improves people’s access to the Internet. According to 2019 Pew Research data, only 63 percent of people living in rural areas had broadband connections. But even in urban communities it was only 75 percent, while the suburban areas were highest at 79 percent.
“With rural broadband and 5G broadband connections in particular, once the infrastructure is in place, you’re really creating the conditions for a productivity renaissance,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US, who estimates the Biden plan will see GDP drop by zero , Could increase 4 percentage points every year for 10 years. “They create the conditions for a significant rise in disadvantaged communities in the economy as a whole.”
Matthew Josephs, senior vice president of policy at Local Initiatives Support Corp., a community development financial institution, also said federal investments in childcare and early learning facilities are “urgently needed”.
“You can’t push children and childcare staff into makeshift rooms like basements,” he said. “You need age-appropriate furniture such as child-sized sinks and toilets, as well as good ventilation and easy-to-clean surfaces. If we really want to get America back to work, we need to resolve the childcare crisis. “
In a broader sense, this approach could provide structural support for lower-income people that will make it easier for them to find and retain employment, said Kristen Broady, an associate at the Brookings Institution.
“You can get vocational training, but if there isn’t a job you still have to move,” she said. “All of these all-round services have to go along with it.”
Larry Summers, a former Treasury Secretary who criticized the level of spending in last month’s coronavirus bailout, is much more excited about the infrastructure plan and its prospects for more growth. However, he argued that helping low-income areas is much more about fairness than productivity.
“The reason to focus on disadvantaged communities depends on the fact that they are disadvantaged,” he said. “It is much more important to provide internet access to people who do not have access than to provide better internet access to people who have good internet service.”
“If you fix highways and people don’t have to fix their chassis because there are fewer potholes, we’ll have a more productive economy,” he added. “But I think the case I strongly support with targeting infrastructure in deprived areas is not primarily an increase in GDP.”
Regardless, activists on the left say this is a step in the right direction. “When I think of people who are in communities that I’m in, people take care of their families,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, co-director of the Race and Economy Action Center. “You don’t have the money to buy a car. It takes an hour and a half to get anywhere using public transport.”
“If people invested enough watching their child or an elderly relative, one could imagine getting a job or having a wider range of jobs,” he said. “There are just a lot more opportunities for people to really achieve something.”
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “Are these investments actually happening?”