My motivation and interest in this project flows from several sources. As an historian of American public policy, I have written on the political economy of the New Deal, the politics of American health policy, and the long shadow of racial segregation in American cities. The central theme of this work, I came to realize, was the failure of public policy to redress inequality and, in many instances, its eagerness to sustain and widen that inequality.
As a faculty member at a large public university, I have, over the last quarter century, seen the fortunes and expectations of my students hammered by unrelenting economic challenges, including the erosion of state support for K-12 and post-secondary education.
And, as a researcher for a state policy think-tank (the Iowa Policy Project, an affiliate of the Economic Policy Institute’s EARN network), I have come to appreciate not just the corrosive effect that bad policy can have on equality and equal opportunity, but the damage that inequality can do to democratic aspirations and institutions.
For all of these reasons — academic, pedagogical, and political — I started assembling “Growing Apart.” Some of the pieces first appeared as blog posts for various outlets, and preliminary versions of the project were published at Inequality.org and as a series at Dissent. Intended as a “live” resource, this new version of Growing Apart incorporates the latest data and new research (especially in the wake of the Great Recession) on inequality’s causes and consequences.