Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Targeted Universalism: The Solution to Inequality?

Targeted universalism: the solution to inequality?

One in five Latinos in California live in poverty, the highest of any demographic group. Black students lag behind all other racial and ethnic groups in reading and math proficiency. And Native Americans are in worse shape today, with an average life expectancy of eight years less than a decade ago.

Despite a suite of well-thought-out policies aimed at improving education, health and economic outcomes for disadvantaged groups, California’s racial inequalities are not diminishing. Often, they are growing.

This is prompting some researchers to rethink how they approach policymaking.

There have generally been two approaches to tackling inequality: one known as universalism that encourages every worker to receive equal benefits, such as social security and the minimum wage. The second is known as targeted policy because it proposes to benefit disadvantaged groups, such as affirmative action to bring more students of color into college or Medicaid, which provides health insurance to the very poor.

But both have drawbacks, says Stephen Menendian, director of research at UC Berkeley’s Other and Belonging Institute. Targeted policies that distribute large amounts of benefits to specific groups are less popular and may exclude other groups in need of support as well. Meanwhile, universalism fails to address the existing inequalities between different groups of people.

Menendian is a proponent of a hybrid approach called targeted universalism. Proponents say it is more complex and requires more planning, but it holds promise to address racial, class and geographic inequality. Some say it can even reduce partisanship.

But few understand this innovative policy approach and few know how to implement it. So can targeted universality work?

What is Target Universality?

Targeted sovereignty is a middle ground between universal policies that treat everyone equally and targeted policies that often exclude many.

John A. Powell, director of the Other and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley (who prefers not to capitalize his name) envisioned targeted universalism to reconsider the process used by governments to make policy. This approach involves setting universal goals for the entire population, but using policies targeted to help different groups achieve that goal.

The Universal Goals aim to create a sense of inclusion, while allowing for targeted solutions to address the barriers faced by different groups. Proponents say that by combining these two approaches, policymakers may be able to produce better results.

how does it work?

Implementing targeted universality is an intensive, five-step process outlined in a 2019 primer by Powell, Menendian, and Wendy Acke.

The first step is to create a coalition of stakeholders who agree on a universal goal in response to a social problem – for example, poor access to quality health care. The coalition, in steps two and three, then assesses how the general population and subgroups divided by race, class, gender and geography fare relative to that universal goal.

In phase four, the coalition identifies the obstacles facing the different groups. This may be a lack of transportation for one group while another group may lack access to quality medical care. For example, various studies show that black and Hispanic patients receive less care than white patients.

While the initial goal is universal, phase five establishes targeted policies. This could include funding more public transportation in rural communities or racial bias training for doctors. Each group will receive different levels of support to suit its needs in achieving that goal.

There’s a lot of planning involved in the process, Menadian said, but “it’s the right way to do things.”

The idea has gained some traction across the country with a few demonstration projects that symbolize targeted universality. King County, Washington has deployed Targeted Universalis to various departments starting in 2016. The county came with one of a variety of targeted policies calling for more investment in neighborhoods where poor transportation reduced access to education, healthy food and jobs. The program is set to end at the end of the year, but no findings have been published yet.

The Chicago Public Schools Office of Equity handed out Targeted Universality Forms to school administrators and teachers, empowering teachers to set their own universal goals, assess their students, and develop customized solutions. It is too early to tell how the project is going.

Why do proponents believe that targeted universalism is the best way to solve inequality?

Currently, targeted policies can exclude groups that do not qualify for social services, even if they are in need of support. For example, food stamp beneficiaries must have less than $2,001 in their bank accounts. That leaves people who have a little more cash ineligible for support, even if they need help buying groceries.

Menendian said it also fueled outrage and criticized the government for valuing a group over the general public.

Universal policies, however, can exacerbate inequalities by using a one-size-fits-all framework that fails to address differences between groups. For example, universal health care may provide insurance to all, but it does not help a rural community without a nearby hospital, nor does it address the high rates of asthma in a community with high traffic and poor air quality. does.

How Can California Use Targeted Universalism?

Targeted universality is so new that not much is known about it. The governor’s office as well as several state lawmakers declined to comment, saying they were not familiar with the concept.

Sarah Kimberlin, senior policy analyst at the California Budget and Policy Center, finds targeted universalism compelling. She said it’s helpful to think about how to address a common goal by looking at individual circumstances, “so you’re really moving everyone toward the same goal.”

Menendian acknowledged that states are not designed to operate within a five-step process, but expects smaller demonstration projects to eventually influence statewide policy.

this is part of the article California Divide Project, a collaboration between newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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