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‘The Minnesota Paradox’

2020-06-01 10:33:25

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Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area has one of the country’s highest standards of living by many measures: high incomes, long life expectancy, a large number of corporate headquarters and a rich cultural scene.

But these headline statistics hide a problem: The Twin Cities also have some of the largest racial inequities in the U.S.

Incomes for white families are similar to those in other affluent metro areas, like Atlanta and Los Angeles. Incomes for black families are close to those in poorer regions like Cleveland and New Orleans:

Samuel L. Myers Jr., an economist at the University of Minnesota, has named this combination “the Minnesota paradox.” Because the area is predominantly white, the racial gaps can get lost in the overall numbers.

Now, these inequities have captured the nation’s attention, after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests. Several other recent high-profile police killings have also taken place in the region.

Why does the Twin Cities have especially deep racial problems? The region is in many ways a microcosm of the country, albeit a more extreme one. Decades of government policy and private-sector decisions have given benefits to white families that black families haven’t received. (A new article by John Eligon and Julie Bosman goes into more detail.)

When the region built an interstate highway in the 1950s, it spared white neighborhoods but tore up a black neighborhood, in the eastern part of the Rondo area in St. Paul, that was “rich with institutions, like churches, social centers, and clubs,” as Quartz reported.

Working-class white families were able to buy their first homes in the mid-20th century — and start building wealth — with help from federal loan programs that excluded black families, as Richard Rothstein explains in his book “The Color of Law.” More recently, banks have been more likely to turn down black loan applicants, Myers found, even after controlling for income and credit risk.

Consider this recent stat: About 76 percent of Twin Cities households headed by a white person own their home, compared with 24 percent of black households.

“We so want to believe we are not racist,” Doug Hartmann, chairman of the University of Minnesota sociology department, has told The Star Tribune, “we don’t even see the way that race still matters.”

For more: “Minnesota, the longtime Democratic presidential stronghold that Donald Trump nearly won in 2016, has suddenly become ground zero in a campaign that already promised to inflame racial and cultural divides,” Politico writes.

For the sixth day in a row, protesters poured into the streets, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not.

Fires burned outside the White House, and the building turned off almost all of its external lights. In New York, chaos erupted in Union Square, with fires in trash cans. In Birmingham, Ala., protesters began tearing down a Confederate monument. Here are the latest updates.

Police in many cities have responded aggressively, with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets. In some instances,the aggression seems to have been unprovoked. In Minneapolis, as officers apparently fired paint canisters at people on their porches, one officer said, “Light them up.”

Other protest developments:

Marcus is calling for a “harm reduction” approach. People won’t remain shuttered in their houses for months, just as they won’t stop having sex. The key instead, she says, is helping people understand how to reduce their risk of contracting the virus — say, by meeting up with a few (masked) friends in a public park. If shaming keeps them from doing so, they may instead meet indoors, which is much more dangerous.

“The abstinence-only and harm reduction approaches share the same goal of reducing illness and death,” she told me, “but from what we know about H.I.V., substance use and other areas of health, harm reduction is far more likely to work.”

For more, check out an infographic on risk that Marcus and Ellie Murray, another epidemiologist, created; and Marcus’s more recent Atlantic article, which promotes the Canadian idea of “double bubbles,” in which two families agree to merge their quarantines.

It’s been seven years since Lady Gaga’s last dance-pop album, and her newly released “Chromatica” is a highly anticipated return to form. The Times’s pop music editor, Caryn Ganz, writes that the album “has some sparkling vocal moments” and ready-for-the-dance floor hits.

“But it feels overwhelmingly safe — a low bar to clear when you’ve released two of the greatest pop albums of the century,” she continues.


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