How to Budget for Equity and Drive Lasting Change

Article by Andrew Kleine and Josh Inaba: “After George Floyd’s tragic death last year sparked calls to “defund the police,” government leaders across the country looked at all their operations under a new lens of equity. Most importantly, state and local leaders examined ways to invest in equitable services. While it is often said that government budgets are value statements, the past year has revealed that many budgets need to be revisited so that they better demonstrate the values of the people they serve.

To address misalignments between government spending and community values, leaders should focus on budgeting for equity, which has four fundamental facets: prioritizing equity, using data and evidence, budgeting for outcomes and engaging the community in new ways…

Data and evidence are important components of any efforts to address racial equity because they allow governments to pinpoint disparities, establish goals to remedy them and find solutions that work. This means that government leaders should be using data to evaluate not just “How well did we do it?” and “Is anyone better off?” but also consider the question “Is everyone better off?”

Asking “Is everyone better off”? is what led Boston officials to take a deep dive into its sidewalk repair data. Analysts found that because repairs were driven by 311 complaints instead of an objective assessment of need, the sidewalks in poorer, minority neighborhoods were in worse shape than those in wealthier parts of the city. Boston now uses a sidewalk condition index and other need-based factors to prioritize its sidewalk capital program.

Similarly, evidence can help governments address more long-standing inequities such as kindergarten readiness. In Maryland, for example, 60% of white students were ready for kindergarten in 2019 compared with 42% of Black students and 26% of Hispanic students, a readiness gap that has widened in recent years. Although Maryland has acted to expand early childhood education, the root cause of the disparity starts before childbirth, when the health and preparedness of mothers can make or break early childhood outcomes.

Evidence-based upstream interventions, such as Nurse-Family Partnership programs, help improve early childhood educational outcomes by supporting low-income, first-time mothers from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. Initiatives like these can help to address long-standing inequities, and governments can use clearinghouses, such as Results for America’s Economic Mobility Catalog, to identify evidence-based strategies to address a wide variety of these equity-related gaps…(More)”.