Talking About Equity: Promoting the Curb-Cut Effect

Posted March 2, 2017, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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In a recent Stan­ford Social Inno­va­tion Review arti­cle, Angela Glover Black­well shows how devel­op­ing poli­cies to cre­ate equi­ty can improve everyone’s lives. She does it with a sim­ple exam­ple: curb cuts.

Glover Black­well, CEO and cofonder of Pol­i­cyLink, a grantee with­in Casey’s equi­ty and inclu­sion port­fo­lio, cites the push by cit­i­zens with dis­abil­i­ties and advo­cates in the late 1970s to make com­mu­ni­ties more acces­si­ble for wheel­chairs. When the fed­er­al Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act required that curb cuts and side­walk ramps be installed every­where, the new acces­si­bil­i­ty didn’t just make a dif­fer­ence for the dis­abil­i­ty com­mu­ni­ty. The curb cuts and ramps cre­at­ed a new way for moth­ers with strollers, cyclists, deliv­ery work­ers, scoot­er rid­ers, kids on bicy­cles and just about every pedes­tri­an to trav­el streets more safe­ly and eas­i­ly. The Casey Foun­da­tion believes the same prin­ci­ples can be applied to improv­ing out­comes for chil­dren in the Unit­ed States.

Cre­at­ing pol­i­cy that is explic­it about elim­i­nat­ing an inequity around race or eth­nic­i­ty is one of the most effec­tive paths to cre­at­ing bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties and out­comes for all chil­dren, not just one group,” says Nonet Sykes, direc­tor of racial and eth­nic equi­ty and inclu­sion at Casey. Using tools, such as the Racial Equi­ty Impact Assess­ment, can help lead­ers fine-tune pieces of leg­is­la­tion for tar­get­ed investment.”

Glover Black­well cites oth­er poli­cies that have had sim­i­lar results — such as seat belt laws and the G.I. Bill of the 1940s — as fur­ther evi­dence of the curb-cut effect.

She writes that apply­ing curb-cut think­ing to trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture or employ­ment pol­i­cy would sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost the GDP of the country’s 150 largest met­ro­pol­i­tan regions. Fur­ther, she notes, poli­cies to cre­ate equi­table oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren of col­or could strength­en our econ­o­my for gen­er­a­tions, espe­cial­ly since chil­dren of col­or will soon com­prise the major­i­ty of kids in the Unit­ed States.

There’s an ingrained soci­etal sus­pi­cion that inten­tion­al­ly sup­port­ing one group hurts anoth­er. That equi­ty is a zero sum game. In fact, when the nation tar­gets sup­port where it is need­ed most — when we cre­ate the cir­cum­stances that allow those who have been left behind to par­tic­i­pate and con­tribute ful­ly — every­one wins,” Glover Black­well writes. When we ignore the chal­lenges faced by the most vul­ner­a­ble among us, those chal­lenges, mag­ni­fied many times over, become a drag on eco­nom­ic growth, pros­per­i­ty and nation­al well-being.”

Read more about the curb-cut effect

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