Ananya Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin, shared her views on the renewal of civic engagement in troubled times as part of the “55 Voices for Democracy” series presented by the Thomas Mann House. “It is no stretch to argue that the problem of the 21st century is the enduring problem of the color line,” Roy said. She argued, however, that amid vast income inequality and racial division, freedom dreams thrive, powered not by elite institutions but by grassroots activism and poor-people’s movements. Roy cited several examples: in the face of institutionalized white supremacy, a robust national discussion about black reparations; amid skyrocketing student debt, growing political interest in free college for all; as thousands of men and women live on the streets, calls for an ambitious public housing program and national rent control. “Radical democracy is demanded and created anew at each historical conjuncture, including this one,” Roy said.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee wrote a piece for Econofact on the relationship between voter turnout and family income. Akee pointed out that it is widely known that wealthy people are more likely to vote than poorer people, but the reasons are less fully understood. Understanding why this occurs could help address this form of political inequality and increase participation in the democratic process, he argued. Akee and his colleagues conducted research looking at the voting patterns of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. They found that increased windfalls from a casino opening did not increase voting participation among parents, but it did among their children. Akee said this may be attributed to more money being invested in education or the families becoming less likely to move away and more likely to become civically engaged.
JR DeShazo and Colleen Callahan, the director and deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, co-authored an article in Capitol Weekly outlining their recommendations for incorporating housing and transportation choice into climate action policy in California. After successfully passing climate action legislation, politicians are now faced with “the enormous task of meeting these goals,” the authors said. They recommend “bundling climate change solutions with initiatives to ease the housing crisis, transportation problems and income inequality” in order to maximize consumer choice. According to DeShazo and Callahan, “all Californians — including members of low-income and vulnerable communities — deserve choice in terms of where they live, where they work, how they move around and how they power their lives.” They conclude with their hopes to “ease housing and transportation burdens while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and expand choice for all Californians.”