First-ever report documents inequities of place, race and income across King County
August 17, 2012 · 12:39 PM
King County Executive Dow Constantine today called for a community-wide effort to make King County a place where everyone has access to opportunities and the ability to reach their full potential, upon release of a first-of-its-kind report that reveals inequities of place, race and income across the county.
"It's a basic American ideal that personal success should be based upon merit - talent, drive, determination - not upon race, or class, or zip code," Constantine said. "Our economy depends on everyone being able to contribute, and we must remove the barriers that artificially limit the ability of some to fulfill their potential. Only when all can fully participate can we have true prosperity."
The report of King County Equity and Social Justice shows that King County is increasingly diverse, with a non-white population that has grown from 13 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in the 2010 census. That trend is expected to continue, as nearly half of all county residents under 18 are non-white. More than 100 languages are spoken in King County, and 11 percent of those over age 5 have limited-English proficiency.
"The results of the report make it painfully clear that the lives of far too many people in our county continue to be impacted by systemic inequities," said Council Chair Larry Gossett. "In 2008, we made a commitment to reduce these inequalities. King County has accomplished much in a very short time, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to achieve the ideals supported by Equity and Social Justice."
Herren weighs in
"Over the last decade the diversity in our district's student population has increased dramatically, with a doubling of students from low-income families and a five-fold increase in English-language learners," said Dr. Kip Herren, Auburn Schools Superintendent. "Reducing inequities would provide all of our students with an equal chance to reach their full potential and succeed academically."
The report highlights the 14 determinants of equity – the conditions in which county residents are born, grow, live, work, and age – and baseline markers to assess progress and areas for improvement in creating a fair and just society.
The report includes maps and other statistics that reveal inequities across King County by place, race and income, and the factors that contribute to opportunity and quality of life, for example:
• Life expectancy varies from a high of 86 years in one neighborhood to a low of 77 years in another – a difference of 9 years.
• South King County and south Seattle have the greatest concentration of households below the median household income. In 2010, African American and Native American households earned just over half of the median income of white households.
• The largest decline in home values has occurred in South King County communities, low-income areas and more racially diverse communities.
• The incarceration rate for African Americans in King County is roughly 8 times the rate of incarceration for whites.
• Food hardship has increased by half since 2007 in King County and varies significantly by race. Nearly two in five Latino adults and more than one in five African American adults report food hardship.
"As the report shows, dramatic disparities continue to exist in King County, particularly in South King County," said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, who represents part of South King County. "These findings will direct us in identifying solutions that increase the quality of life for all people regardless of your zip code, the size of your bank account or your ethnicity."
The report also highlights King County efforts to promote fair and just conditions for all through the siting and delivering of services; policy development and decision making; education and communication within county government; and community engagement and partnerships. For example:
• The budget office held all agencies accountable for considering equity impacts in their 2012 budgets and business plans.
• Metro Transit included social equity as one of three criteria in its new Transit Strategic Plan, which determines how transit services are allocated in King County.
• King County Elections expanded voter registration and education outreach activities through partnerships with ethnic communities and other underserved populations.
The first annual report of King County Equity and Social Justice can be viewed at www.kingcounty.gov/equity