One region, many outcomes
The greater Portland region encompasses two states, multiple counties, dozens of municipalities and many diverse interests. Yet the region lives and breathes as a single, living whole. The parts and the whole are co-dependent and a distinct set of outcomes help define the region. What happens in one part will inevitably, in some way, affect the whole.
Greater Portland Pulse measures results and inspires action for the well-being of the whole region by listening to and learning from its many parts. Greater Portland Pulse also supports the conversations needed to bring diverse interests into coordinated action around shared outcomes to for a better future.
The path to economic prosperity: equity and the education imperative
A pattern emerged from this first round of Greater Portland Pulse data and dialogue. As this report will show, social, natural and physical capital are critical, but the pattern reveals the particular importance of human capital - people - to the future of our region’s economic prosperity and overall well-being.
It is human capital - people - who must earn their education, compete for and secure a living wage job; who keep themselves healthy (or not) by the way they eat, exercise and live their daily lives; who either protect or denigrate our natural environment by their decisions and behaviors; who get drawn into criminal activity or follow society’s laws; who express themselves through or are inspired by art and culture; and who engage to make society better by voting, volunteering and engaging on public policy issues like education, health care, transportation, housing, climate change and the natural environment.
What comprises is the “human capital” in our region? The Census Bureau tells us that like the U.S., the population in our region is getting bigger, older and more diverse. Between 2000 and 2010, our adult population, at 76 percent of the population, grew 2.5 times faster than the under-18 population. In 2010, 24 percent of the population was non-white, non-Hispanic, up from 18 percent in 2000. At 11 percent of the population, the Hispanic population is our largest minority, having grown between four and five times faster than the general population in the last decade. We also know that minority percentages in many of our K-12 schools are higher than in the general population.
Manuel Pastor, interview with Angela Glover Blackwell, June 16, 2011
This means that children from diverse backgrounds will increasingly become our region’s workforce and leaders of tomorrow. They are the key to our region’s future economic prosperity. Yet today, they and their families are more likely to experience lower levels of income and education; less access to preventive and traditional health care; higher rates of incarceration; less access to arts professionals in schools; less access to affordable housing and transportation options; and obstacles to civic engagement, resulting in a lack of environmental justice and an unequal voice in decision-making about public policies that affect their lives. Greater Portland Pulse data confirm and dialogue processes affirm many of these inequities.
We know that those with education and means are better able to avoid or transcend these challenges. We also know that children from diverse backgrounds start their academic careers from behind and can rarely, fully catch up. Closing that education gap for all children is imperative for our region’s future.