This is savage, and I have some exciting news to share. We are back for season two of my podcast. Let's be real with Sammy J. This season, we'll have more revealing and unfiltered conversations with celebrities, influencers, activists and athletes. Guests include the amazing singer and actor Anthony Ramos, Tic-Tac sensation Dixy Romelio, NBA star Aaron Gordon and many more listen to Let's Be Real with Savage on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.
You and me both is a production of I Heart radio. Do I hope that in your spare time, you hang around in sweats? Yes, I do. But I am I am OK.
But yeah, I thought it was so appropriate. And you made more of an effort than I've ever seen any man necessarily make in those situations. And I really appreciated that. I'm Hillary Clinton and this is you and me both where I get into some of today's biggest questions with people I admire. On today's episode, we're talking about the American dream. What exactly do we mean when we say that? And is it still possible to achieve? You know, I think the American dream is still achievable, but I think we have our eyes wide open about how hard it is for so many people.
There are all kinds of obstacles that have to be overcome and individual lives. And I'm interested not only in that, but also what do we need to do to change our economy and our society and our culture and our mindset to make sure more people have a chance to fulfill whatever they think is their American dream. So I'm talking to three people today. Lorella Parelli is a former dreamer. She's an advocate for immigrants and low income Americans and has an amazing story.
Raj Chetty is an economist who studies opportunity. In other words, how do we help more people fulfill their dreams? What needs to be done to make that happen? But first hand France. Now, you know, Tan is the fashion expert on Netflix's Queer Eye, which was rebooted in twenty eighteen, you know, it's a really fun and heartwarming show. In each episode 10 and the rest of the Fab Five team hit the road to spend time with someone who is pursuing their dream or just trying to get by and to give them a little boost.
This show has made Tan a household name. He's one of the first openly gay South Asian and Muslim men on TV in the United States. And as you'll hear, he is completely charming. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his husband, Rob and their two kids. He's author of the memoir Naturally Tan. I love that title.
There were so many reasons why I wanted to talk to him about the American dream. He recently became a U.S. citizen. And because he spends so much time helping people live their own dreams, he has some pretty good insight into what it takes to have the American dream in the twenty first century.
Let me start by congratulating you, because I know you became a U.S. citizen this past June. I sure did.
What did that feel like? You know, I don't think I've still quite processed it. I've been working on this for so long. I want it to be an American citizen. Pretty much my whole life, since I was a little boy and I was watching American TV, I dreamt of this. And so the moment that it happened, I was so overcome with emotion that all I could do was eat donuts, because that was the most American thing I could think of.
I went to the donut shop down the street and ate donuts, and that was my version of being a true American.
Well, I think that's a very American response to the emotion of the, you know, of the minute. Where were you actually sworn in?
In Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where I live right now. Well, not explain how you went from New York to Salt Lake. What was that connection? Well, I never heard of Utah, but quite honestly, what I tell my friends and family in England, they have no idea where it might be on the map. And so I was living in New York. I had a housemate who was from Salt Lake City, Utah, and he had suggested that I go visit and I had no idea what it might be like, what it might look like.
It sounded very country. And I was surprised to see that they have a propensity. And I fell in love with the city pretty much immediately. Within an hour, I decided I was going to make this my home.
Was there something about Salt Lake that you felt connected to because of your, you know, growing up in different cultures and different countries? You grew up in Britain. Your parents are immigrants from Pakistan. You were raised Muslim.
How did it come to be that going to Salt Lake, well known as a beautiful cosmopolitan city, but also the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints became the magnet for you.
I don't know how honest I you would like it to be spent to be like hospita, but I'm going to give you my deep, deep. OK, so my honest, honest answer is this. So you mentioned that I was a child of immigrants. My parents came from Pakistan and Kashmir, India respectively, and I was raised in the UK. And I don't know what experience you have with the South Asian community in the UK, but we are kind of senior citizens in that you wouldn't really take us home to meet your parents to date us.
It wouldn't. We would be the undesirable dating community. And that was the case when I was a kid and especially after 9/11. And I was 17 when 9/11 happened. And so when I came to Utah, the reason why I said within the first hour is because we went to a restaurant. I didn't know what it was at the time, but it turned out to be chillis. And within an hour or so, I had so many people just smile and ask where I was from.
And somebody helped me during that time. And I had never experienced anything like it with my collar. The color of my skin and my honesty seemed to be the thing that made people want to get to know me as opposed to make people not want to talk to me. And that felt so special.
Oh, that's so interesting. And that was like almost immediate. Immediate. I really wanted to ask you, you know, this is not our nation's brightest moment. We are struggling with, you know, so much turmoil and so many challenges. What do you feel like officially to become an American at this pretty messy and divisive time?
You know, I my husband asked me my husband's name is Robert. He asked me the same question. He said, does it feel weird after wanting this your whole life to get to the point where. You are now an American citizen, and we actually do have a lot to be ashamed of, and I see that as a true patriot. I and I do cast myself as a patriot, even though I am an immigrant. I fought my whole life to be able to live here.
I love this country. Truly, I do. And it's sad that I became a citizen during this time.
However, I've always been incredibly optimistic person my whole life. The thing that actually drives many people crazy is that I always see hope, even though sometimes there probably isn't very much. However, even though I see true hope. And so for me, I was excited to be able to vote this year. I thought, what better year than to get my citizenship? But I can finally vote and encourage people to vote. And I've been encouraging people to vote for quite some time.
But it didn't really mean enough when I wasn't able to vote myself and say, I mean it with you. Mm hmm. And so the way I see is, yes, it was a very strange year to become a citizen. However, I will forever remember it as the first time I voted was a time when I desperately wanted my vote to be heard.
Absolutely. Well, you know, since twenty eighteen, you've had the opportunity to criss cross our country.
You have been all over America. You've met 41 Saini Americans.
Oh wow. So you really are talking with people literally on the ground and you're having very personal conversations.
I mean, when you, you know, hold up somebody's pajamas and say, you know, you're not going to have sex in these pajamas and the stuff that you tell them, you know, you're really in their lives in a way that most of us never get a chance to be. So how has that affected your feelings about, you know, both the country and, you know, your place in it?
It's been interesting going to places I've never been before with this country. I had lived here for ten years or nine years at the time when I got the job. And up until that point, I had probably visited three or four states. I felt like I knew the Utah community well enough, the New York community well enough. But going across the country has really opened my eyes, not just with where I go to universities across the country and do speaking engagements and speak with college students who are at that impressionable age and talk about what they're going through.
And it's been interesting learning what has happened with their lives since twenty eighteen. And it feels like so many people are fed up. They feel stuck in a rut. They don't feel heard. And that has been the most common interaction we've had with people, is that they don't feel safe, they don't feel loved enough.
That really resonates with me because I think when you sort of strip it all down, loving and being loved is at the core of the human experience. And you see that with the people that you're working with and that you're visiting with. Do you get the sense that this divisiveness that we see in the country can be reconciled and healed with different attitudes, not just from leaders, but from all of us?
I would like to believe so. I think that what Netflix did super well and this isn't just a sales pitch for Netflix, I believe me. I just truly believe they did this very well. They decided that they were going to bring back query time when we knew that things were going to become more divided than they have been in a very long time. And so Netflix, so our community as the bridge, we get to speak with people in a way that most people aren't afforded.
For example, I can speak with women without feeling threatened at all by me. I can speak with men without worrying that we might be trying to get their women or trying to compete for their job. We are a community that they're not majorly threatened by and they're willing to open up to us. And we use our skills, which are very personal as a vehicle to be able to have conversations. And so we are in a very privileged position where people will open up to us more so than they would most other people.
When I'm in somebody's closet and I'm seeing them in their underwear, they are in their most vulnerable state. I can ask them pretty much anything at that point and they'll likely answer. I think that that timing was crucial. Netflix saw us as the bridge between the Democrats and the Republicans, quite honestly. And right when we went in with a mission, we wanted to meet as many people who didn't sing from our hymn sheet that the people who had no interest ordinarily in hearing our side of the story.
But when you're in your underwear, you're probably more likely to tell me what you think because I've got you trapped. And that feels very special. And we put a face to what people may see as a threat. They don't understand our community and the five of us represent many communities. And so they get a personal interaction with a person that they've probably never spoken to before. And so I'm able to say to somebody, when you vote for somebody like Trump, you are voting against me.
You're voting against. My people, you vote against everything that we represent. So it's not just a blind vote for a Republican. I think that's my biggest concern with a lot of Americans who vote. They will vote for whoever it is as long as it's their party. And I will never understand that. I don't think most Brits vote that way. If we don't like somebody, we're not going to vote for them, regardless of whether there are party or not.
And I wish that we had more of that mentality here. And so I feel the opportunity that we have with Kerry is to have those conversations and say, I am the person you're actually voting against here.
We're taking a quick break. Stay with us. Legendary artists, musical icons recognized for decades of impact, influence and bringing the house down. Each year, some of the most outstanding artists of our time are honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. And now we've teamed up with I Heart Radio to take you inside those memorable nights with a brand new podcast series, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ball. You'll hear humble, impassioned and inspiring speeches from these amazing inductees and the artists who were on hand to honor them.
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Now, that is true. When you think about Queer Eye and being part of it now, it's so much more than a makeover, it really is about you're meeting people where they are giving them a boost, trying to give them some sense of meaning and purpose and even a financial boost. Yes. And I really love what the Fab Five does for these folks that you meet.
But it also kind of makes me sad that there are so many millions of people who will never meet you. Maybe they'll get you vicariously by watching the program. So have you thought about, you know, if you could wave the proverbial magic wand, what are a couple of things that you think could be changed that would help more people than you'll ever possibly be able to get to?
The one thing for me personally that I try to communicate as much as possible wherever I am, whether it be in person on the show or if I'm doing TV. I will always try and push this one agenda, all the things that were offering. I just as a vision for a vehicle to have a conversation to really encourage a certain kind of self-esteem in a person and to encourage them to see themselves as better than they believe they are. And the main thing I want people to take away is that we are incredibly mean to ourselves.
When we look in the mirror, the things that we think about ourselves are seldom things that people are thinking of us. And so to look in the mirror and remind ourselves of the things that are actually wonderful about us, the reason why we have friends and family who love us, I want people to realize that those things are so much more important than the new wardrobe I might give them or the new sofa that Bobby might give them. They're just the things that make a good TV show, right?
Our show is reminding them that they are so much more than they think they are. And so we're just kind of holding up a mirror to them and saying, look at you. I want you to tell me basically in a nutshell what you think that everybody else sees in you, that you clearly don't. Why do people love you? There's a reason why.
But you went through that whole process yourself. I mean, your memoir, naturally tanned, you know, talks about your struggles and your conflicts and your doubts and, you know, very personal aspects of how you became who you are today.
I mean, we see you we see the the confidence, the optimism, the joy in your life.
But it wasn't always like that, was it? No. I think if anybody ever suggests that they have always been happy and that there's never a time when they've suffered hardship, I just wouldn't believe it. I think to get to the point where you can be as optimistic as I am, you have to have seen some bad things and experienced a lot, and you've overcome it and overcome it through great strength. That does require great strength. There were times when I struggled with my businesses.
When I first moved to America, I started my businesses. It was the American dream that I was desperate to fulfill and I did. But I didn't get to that point without a few years of hellacious hard work. And as a child going through the racism that we went through so regularly and just knowing that there was light at the end of the tunnel, even though somebody may not have liked us for our skin color, our religion, my sexuality, there was still so much more that I liked about myself, even if those strangers couldn't see it.
And so that is the message I desperately want to push forward on. The likes of any platform I have is that, yes, people may throw stones, but the one thing I say to everyone, I refuse to be the reason I'm unhappy about what has gone on in my life. I refuse to be the reason I'm unhappy. They can say what they want. I have more control of my feelings than they do. That's right. And so I will find a way to make myself happy.
And I just have to thank you for being naturally you and talking with me today. I hope we get to meet in person. I hope so. At some point, whenever the pandemic hell finally left, we.
Can I interrupt you? Go right ahead.
And I know that people many people had their opinions on what you wore during your campaign. I am not just saying this because I've taught you for my whole life. You looked wonderful.
Here's the thing. I will mention this also. It didn't matter. It shouldn't matter. Trump turned up looking like a joke every time and nobody seemed to care that much. But you clearly made an effort. I love that you did so many times. The Full Monty probably would go for a full blue or whatever I thought it was. You looked regal, almost. Do I hope that in your spare time you hung around in sweats?
Yes, I do, but I feel good. OK, good.
But yeah, I thought it was so appropriate. And you made more of an effort than I've ever seen any man necessarily make in those situations, and I really appreciated it.
Oh, thank you. Thank you. I love you even more. France is the author of Naturally Tan, a memoir Season six of Queer Eye, which will be filmed in Austin, Texas. One of my favorite American cities is on hold due to the pandemic. But you can watch the most recent season as well as his other show next in fashion on Netflix. Now I'll be talking to Lorella Proleague. Lorelle is a dreamer who became a US citizen and she's an incredible organizer.
I can speak from experience. I was lucky enough to have her working on my twenty sixteen presidential campaign and she was everywhere, no matter where I went. There she was. She just has a natural ability to draw people to her, to the causes that she is advocating. She was born in Peru. Her parents brought her to the United States as a very young child for medical treatments. And you're going to hear about that now at just thirty two years old.
She's president of Community Change, an organization that empowers low income Americans to fight for a more just future for themselves, their children and generations to come. As you're about to hear, Lorella is the kind of person who makes you want to get up and go out and change the world.
Hello, how are you? I'm so excited to talk with you. It's been way too long. You are always on the front lines of trying to help people and trying to make change. And maybe you could just give our listeners a little background of how you ended up in the United States and what your life was like here.
Yeah, I had a car accident when I was two and a half, and that resulted in the amputation of my right leg. So for many years, we actually did a lot of trips between Peru and the states. And then my family decided to move here when I was 10 years old. And I grew up in Connecticut, in New Milford, Connecticut. Of all the places my parents could have picked, that was their choice. And then I got here and I was a young brown girl with one leg navigating the world in a different language.
And I then found out I was undocumented. It didn't come until later. So it's been a lot of ups and downs. But I would say all of my downs have come with a tremendous opportunity to learn.
Do you remember the moment when you learned you were undocumented and what that meant to you? I think it happened around your desire to apply for college, right?
Yeah. I mean, it was it was devastating. I actually think I knew that I was undocumented long before I internalized what that meant. And I had had many conversations with my mother where I asked, well, how come I can't do this or how can we can't do this? And she would always say, oh, it's you can't get a driver's license because you can't drive because of your leg. I think really it was her way of protecting me.
And when I found out I was undocumented, it was devastating for that moment. And I would say for the next several years, I carried a lot of shame. I was really embarrassed and I was afraid. It was almost as if I thought that I was walking around and I carried a label that said undocumented on my forehead. And, you know, I remember when I was driving any time I drove and a police car showed up behind me, I would just my whole body, my whole the whole state and physiology of my body would change.
And I would very nervously begin to think about when is when is the earliest turn that I could make where the police would not follow me.
And what about becoming a dreamer? Talk about, you know, the movement, the DREAM Act.
You know, I walked into a room at a field planning meeting that United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth network where I spent a good really was my first political home in this country. And a lot of young people were wearing these shirts that said undocumented and unafraid. And I was just looking at them like, I don't know what world you're living in. I am very much undocumented and I am very afraid. And I learned that there that organizing is the art of the possible.
And to believe that even though there were many people who had been fighting on our behalf and telling our stories that if we wanted to change the laws in this country, if we wanted to fight for citizenship for everyone, then we had to step into our full power and our full truth, reject the stories that had been told about us and begin to. A different narrative, I know that you got married in twenty twelve, you got your green card, you were then among the group sworn in as American citizens by President Obama in twenty fifteen during this time that you were undocumented.
And now, of course, as an American citizen, how have you thought of yourself as an American and how have you understood the American dream?
How has it been defined for you and by you?
So to me, the most powerful part of the American dream is the way that it challenges each one of us to reshape and reimagine what our country can be. And so I think being American is realizing that the truth that this country holds might be self-evident, but they are not self executing. How do we look at America every day and say, I will not settle for that because I know another world is possible? To me, that is really the American dream and the fact that I get to do that as someone who was not born here, but who is committed to making all of these things real, that maybe that is only possible in a place like the United States.
It's important to keep the movement going, to keep the organizing going, to make the case, even if people get discouraged or disappointed to persuade them not to give up. So what are you seeing out there?
Oh, man. We are living through a really hard period right now. You know, nearly four in 10 black and Hispanic households right now with children are struggling to feed their families. And so that is consuming people's minds because parents are having to make very hard choices about how to make sure that they can stay in their apartment, how to make sure that they can feed their families. And to me, all of these things are a policy choice, mass unemployment as a policy choice.
Food insecurity is a choice. Mass evictions is a policy choice. And so I think that people are living through and we are going to continue to live through this very hard period. And I also feel like there is a tremendous amount of hope.
You have always epitomized that to me. And you shared a story in the past about how when you lost your leg in that accident, when you were a two year old, your parents told people not to help you. My dad your dad said, you know, she's going to stand up on her own. She's going to get around on her own. And somehow in my head, I see this analogy because these days staying strong and telling people, stay strong and keep going and let's try to make a big change is quite an ask.
The Trump administration has done so much to insult and undermine and demean immigrants separating kids at the border, restricting DOCA, demonizing people. The list obviously goes on and on. So how do you personally find the strength to get back up every day?
Keep going, keep fighting and keep using your extraordinary voice and example to convince others to do that with you?
I mean, part of me believes that some of it was my father's training from when I was very little, that the you can do this exercise every time I fell. And I felt a lot when I was learning how to walk with a prosthetic leg, when I was moving around with crutches when I was little. I remember in particular a moment when we were at maybe it was a carnival and I fell and one of my shoes also fell off. And I was I was in a lot of pain and all of these people were rushing towards me to help me up.
And he just sort of he had this motion just sort of pushed people away just by looking at them and moving his hand. And I was angry. I was angry, but he didn't help me up. And, you know, I think about it now and I am just grateful. You know, I think that it was lessons learned for the future. And those lessons learned were about remembering that in life we are going to fall and we're going to get up and we're going to fall again and you're going to get up again.
Now, we can make the getting up easier. And that's what gives me hope, this belief that there's the world as it should be. And then there was the world as it is. And we as organizers, we ask people if we vote, if we make our voices heard, we can play a role in closing that gap, the gap that exists between the world as it should be in the. World as it is, and in this time in particular, because of all that the pandemic has exposed, my dream is that we take the pain and the fear and the anguish that so many people are feeling right now, particularly in black, brown and immigrant communities, and that we use that to create an America where people feel seen and heard and where everyone can thrive.
And if we believe that that is possible, then we can fight to overturn all of these structural barriers that have been put in place. And we could make it easier for people to stand up after they fall because that is a part of life. I love that.
Lorella, I am in your corner. I'm one of your biggest fans and admirers and I just can't wait to see what you do next. Keep that energy, keep that optimism, keep that sense of hopefulness in the face of setbacks because it's contagious when people see you do it and then they feel like I'm going to do it, too.
So thank you, my friend. Thank you for talking to me today. Thank you.
For more information on the organization that Lorella leads, community change and the work they're doing on voter engagement, immigrant rights and affordable child care, please visit Community Change. Dawg Tan Lorella each have their own American dream success stories. But at the same time lots of Americans are struggling just to get by. There's food insecurity. In other words, people don't have enough food. The jobs that have been lost, many of them haven't come back and may not come back.
People have burned through their savings trying to keep themselves afloat. You know, for many people, the American dream has never felt more out of reach. That's why I wanted to talk with economist Raj Chetty. He is the expert on this issue. Last year, The Atlantic magazine ran a profile of him called The Economist Who could fix the American Dream. Well, that caught my attention. So let's get right to it. What do we mean?
What do you mean when we talk about the American dream and what about it needs fixing.
So one way I think about it from a personal perspective, I was a kid who grew up in India till I was eight years old, came to the US at that point. And the image many people have of America is it's a place where no matter what your background is, if you work hard, you have a shot of making it that there's kind of no ceiling. Right. And to me, that's at least one key aspect of the American dream.
And so I then think about how do you measure that in the data? Are we living up to that aspiration? Are we really a land of opportunity where anyone can rise up? And one way people have thought about measuring the concept historically is that America is a place where most kids can expect to go on to have a higher standard of living than their parents did. And so we did a study a couple of years ago where we tried to measure a very simple statistic.
What fraction of kids go on to earn more than their parents did when we measure both kids incomes and their parents incomes in their mid 30s or when they're 40 years old. And what we found, I think, was a really disturbing and worrisome pattern, which is back in the middle of the last century. If you look at kids born, say, in the 1940s and 1950s, 90 percent of kids went on to earn more than their parents did.
But if you look at what's happened over time, you see a dramatic feeding of the American dream. We find that for kids who are turning 30 today, there's only a 50 50 shot of earning more than your parents did. And so it's that sort of trend that I think animates my interest in figuring out how you can make America a land of opportunity.
Once again, you were part of a team that built something called an Opportunity Atlas. I just love that title which maps the level of opportunity in our country literally down to neighborhoods. And part of what's so remarkable about this opportunity, Atlas, is that you can see just a few streets, separate areas where a kid is likely to grow up and improve his or her economic status from areas where a kid isn't. What makes some neighborhoods economically mobile creating more opportunity and other neighborhoods less so.
And maybe explain how you and your team were able to aggregate the data that. Created this opportunity atlast, yeah, absolutely, so a lot of what we do is using big data. And so in this case we used anonymized information from census and Social Security and tax data information. The government has to be essentially map the lives of millions of kids tracing their outcomes in adulthood, their levels of income, college attendance rates, teenage birth rates, things like that, back to the neighborhoods in which they grew up.
And specifically what we were able to do, analyzing data for 20 million families is compare kids who grew up in families at the same income level. And what we calculate is what are the odds of rising up for those kids? What are the chances they reach the middle class? What are the chances they earn more than 80000 or 100000 dollars a year in adulthood? And so, as you noted, you find incredibly large differences across nearby neighborhoods. And that, from a social science perspective, is, first of all, useful to note in its own right, because there's a great deal of effort from the federal government to try to reduce segregation and help families move to higher opportunity areas.
And this kind of data can be really useful for supporting that sort of work. But it can also be useful to your question in understanding what is it that makes opportunity more available in some neighborhoods relative to others. And we've looked at a variety of different factors and basically distill it to three or four things that seem like systematic, strong patterns. So the first is that more mixed income areas tend to have higher levels of upward mobility. The second major factor is the availability of social capital.
So social capital is kind of a complicated concept that is a bit hard to define. But the way I think about it is just will someone else in your community help you out even if you're not doing well? So as an example, people often talk about Salt Lake City with the Mormon Church as an example of a place with a lot of social capital. And in our data, Salt Lake City looks like a place where low income kids have great chances of rising up.
A third very important factor, which is intuitive, is the quality of public schools in an area. And then a fourth factor, which I'll mention illustrates. I think the complexity of the issues is there's a very strong correlation between rates of upward mobility and measures of family structure. So areas with more two parent families tend to have higher rates of upward mobility. But in understanding this, it's very important to note that it's not literally about whether your own parents are married or not, even if your own parents are married kids who grow up in areas with a larger share of single parents tend to be less likely to climb the income ladder.
And so the reason I provide that additional nuances, it shows you that the mechanism is not maybe the first thing lots of people would think of that your own parents marital structure is the critical thing. It's against something about the community that's getting picked up.
There will be right back.
Yeah. Hey, everybody, this is Jill Scott and I am pleased to introduce you to Jay, that IL the podcast. I am joined by my amazing, brilliant girlfriends, Claire St. Claire. What I know. And a great dance. Hey. Oh, we are going to be talking about a lot of amazing things like individuality, family and blackness.
Oh, Jill, I don't have time to listen to a podcast. Honey, listen, when you're sulking in your bathtub, listen on your long drive home or when you're shopping at the grocery store, just throw those earbuds in and check out Jay. That is the podcast. Listen to Jill Scott presents Jadot Il, the podcast on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcast. This is savage, and I have some exciting news to share.
We are back for season two of my podcast. Let's be real with Sammy J. Season one had some amazing guests, including YouTube sensation by the Koshy and NBA All-Star Kevin Love.
Nothing robs us of more human potential than mental illness.
This season will have more revealing and unfiltered conversations with celebrities, influencers, activists and athletes, including the amazingly talented Anthony Ramos.
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This time last year I was on the bus to field hockey games I didn't even do to talk and to give back my guess.
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I'm saying 70 make McElvoy listen to us be really savage on the radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast.
You know, we're in the midst of this nationwide pandemic health crisis, it's revealed again more inequities in our health care systems, the job markets and even education. What do you think the long term effects of covid will be on social mobility, especially on the communities that you've been studying that don't have a lot of opportunity to spare?
So in our team, the way we've been thinking about it, everyone, I think is with the how can they contribute to this crisis? And so our thought was, can we use the big data approach again to measure the impacts of covid more rapidly in a very precise way? How is it affecting different people and businesses in America? And in this case, we found that the best approach was not to turn to government data, but actually to data from private companies which have the best real time information on what is happening in our economy.
Let me give you an example. If you want to see what is happening to consumer spending in America, get data from companies that process credit and debit card transactions. So you swipe your credit card. We collect all of that information and anonymized way. And three or four days later, we have a sense of what is happening to spending in America. And that is incredibly valuable, because when you look at the sort of data, you can see the effects of various policy changes.
So, for instance, when the stimulus checks went out literally on April 16th relative to April 14th, you see a huge uptick in spending, especially for low income folks who were really strapped for cash. Right. And so with that sort of real time data from private companies of various types, we have been studying what is happening to economic outcomes and economic opportunity in the Kovik crisis. And so there are lots of issues in the short run. How do we get Americans back to work and what is happening to businesses and so forth?
And I'm happy to talk about that. But I want to tie this back to the longer term kind of conversation we've been having on economic opportunity. And I want to share one piece of data that to me is very alarming. So we've been tracking data on an online math learning platform called SERN, which about a million students in the US use in their schools to do math lessons. And we basically look at what happened when schools shut down to progress on this platform.
And what we find is that for kids in high income families, when schools went to remote instruction, there was a temporary dip in the amount of progress they were making. But they very quickly rebounded back to the levels that they were at when they were in school. For kids in low income families, you see a 60 percent drop us in terms of the progress they're making in math. And there's absolutely no recovery, basically. And that, I think, is incredibly alarming for all of the reasons that we've been talking about earlier in the conversation, which is these early childhood formational years are incredibly important in determining kids long term outcomes.
And my worry is the Kovik crisis is bring to the forefront many of the inequalities that I think have been a little bit hidden to many Americans at least. And in a sense, we're going to be seeing the impacts of this crisis if we don't respond appropriately, not just in the coming months, but 10, 20 years from now because of these impacts.
Well, I mean, one of the findings that you have shown is that, you know, a really great kindergarten teacher can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in future earnings for students. But because of covid, kids are not in school or if they are, it's kind of a sporadic you know, we're in, we're out. And it's absolutely clear, as you pointed out, how this is going to have long term impacts on low income kids. It will probably creep up the income ladder somewhat more than you might find at other times because families aren't able to get back to work, namely, mothers are not able to get back to work.
So the standard of living drops, plus the education is not proceeding the way it needs to be. I agree with you that we have a lot of long term problems. We're going to have to unpack and then try to address. But but let me wrap up by asking you this. I'm hoping for a change in the November election where we might actually get back to making policy based on evidence and data and facts and reason and lots of, you know, challenges to that in the current administration.
But we're going to have to really have an organized effort to move quickly. So if you were asked by an incoming administration, OK, what are the three things, Professor Chelly, that we need to do as soon as we. Than to try to make up for, you know, not just historic inequity, but the incredibly damaging impact of covid, what would be your three most important policy suggestions?
Yes, so we need to have a solid base in the short run to be able to build towards long term solutions. And so the first set of policy efforts that I would focus on are short term targeted supports to the people and the places that have been hit hardest by this crisis to help restore employment. A kind of a basic level. I would then push towards trying to address what I see as the structural factors that are leading to the inequalities that are becoming apparent in this crisis.
So I think one response to what we're seeing in terms of the educational inequity that we just talked about in the current crisis is, oh, that just happened in the context of COGAT. We need to fix that now. But then things are going to be fine afterwards. I think that's the wrong way to look at it. It's actually a you're seeing at the surface a much deeper problem that's been around for many, many years. And I think what we should do is use this as an opportunity to do something that will be much more transformational.
So my one positive hope coming out of the current crisis is in the same way that the Great Depression, I think, was an incredible shock to the country. It also led to, I think, a transformative set of policies that paved the way for an incredible amount of inclusive growth in America over the next many decades. And I think this is the moment to try to seize the opportunity and make a similar effort. And so what does that then involve?
Reducing segregation in America? So that can be through affordable housing policy, can be through zoning changes the way we collect taxes and so forth. There are number of specifics, but I think that is one major area to focus on, another major area to focus on, given that opportunity seems to have emerged so locally is place based investments. So traditionally, when people talk about place based investments, it's often things like tax credits for businesses or things focused on the labor market.
But as we've been discussing, the foundations I think are really in the context of childhood. And so when I think about these best efforts, it's about how do you provide in specific communities, better schools, more social capital, and importantly, do it in a way that doesn't just end up raising house prices and creating gentrification such that the people you were trying to help end up having to move out. So I think that's a second major area of focus.
And then third, the universities that provide important pathways to opportunity. For many folks, there's, I think, another crisis in America playing out there where there are many colleges that produce good outcomes for kids but are inaccessible to kids from lower income backgrounds, either because they can't afford it or because those colleges, for various reasons, are not admitting as many kids from low income backgrounds. And so I think a push towards essentially making your contribution to social mobility a key factor that determines how a college is regarded, perhaps even how much funding federal funding college gets, I think is is another important area for focus.
So, you know, just to provide some perspective, though, those may seem like things that are not directly about covid, but I think that longer term perspective is incredibly important, combined with short run solutions.
Well, I agree completely and that longer term perspective, combined with the short term solutions, is one of the ways I hope that we can work together as a nation to revitalize the American dream. And if we lose the idea and the reality of the American dream, we really do see a continuing fraying of our social fabric in ways that I know distress you and certainly distressed me. So thank you, Raj. Please keep up your extraordinary commitment to helping us understand how we can actually improve opportunity in America for many, many more Americans.
Thank you so much. My pleasure.
You can learn more about Rajah's projects and find lots of cool maps and data visualization and opportunity insights. Doug. Well, that's it for this week's show, You and Me both is brought to you by I Heart Radio. We're produced by Julie Suban and Kathleen Russo with help from Huma Abedin, Niki Toure, Oscar Florez, Briana Johnson, Nick Merrill, Lauren Peterson, Rob Russo and llona Val Morreau. Our engineer is Zach McNiece, and the original music is by Forrest Gray.
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