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Citi | Closing the Racial Inequality Gap: The Economic Cost of Black Inequality in the U.S.

Opening remarks by Raymond J McGuire, Vice Chairman, Citi Chairman, Banking, Capital Markets, Advisory |

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Today, more than at any time since Dr. King’s assassination, we are bearing witness to the grave injustices affecting our fellow citizens. Black, Latinx, and Native Americans have been hospitalized for COVID-19 at a disproportionately high rate, a direct result of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as “long-standing systemic health and social inequities.” Blacks and People of Color are also bearing a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s economic devastation. And the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have finally shaken the U.S. and the world awake to the egregious racial inequities in our criminal justice system.

As Dr. King noted, these injustices affect all of us. Higher rates of infection among some affect the health of all, and the loss of health, life, and livelihood among communities of color diminish everyone’s economic security. No one should want to live in a society that incarcerates or kills so many of its citizens just because they are black or brown.

The privileges we enjoy by working for Citi come with responsibilities. While elected officials and community activists must do their part, so must we. One important thing we can do is to show the costs of racial inequality through objective analysis which is what the authors of this report have sought so effectively to demonstrate. Our overarching goal for the Citi GPS series is not only to tackle the key opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, but also to address complex societal questions and to not shy away from difficult subjects. As such, we believe we have a responsibility to address current events and to frame them with an economic lens in order to highlight the real costs of longstanding discrimination against minority groups, especially against Black people and particularly in the U.S.

The analysis in the report that follows shows that if four key racial gaps for Blacks — wages, education, housing, and investment — were closed 20 years ago, $16 trillion could have been added to the U.S. economy. And if the gaps are closed today, $5 trillion can be added to U.S. GDP over the next five years.

I write this forward as Citi’s Vice Chairman and Chairman of our Global Banking, Capital Markets and Advisory business, but my journey began at the bottom. My two brothers and I were raised in Dayton, Ohio by our single mom and her parents, who had migrated from Georgia to escape the injustice and terror of Jim Crow. They worked tirelessly as janitors, social workers, and leaders at our local church to give us every opportunity. At any given time, we shared our home with five to eight foster siblings.

Yet even today, with all those credentials and as one of the leading executives on Wall Street, I am still seen first as a six-foot-four, two-hundred pound Black man wherever I go — even in my own neighborhood. I could have been George Floyd. And my wife and I are constantly aware that our children could have their innocence snatched away from them at any given moment, simply for the perceived threat of their skin color. I hope that the analysis in this report brings sober perspective as well as hope to our readers as we collectively find substantive and sustainable opportunities to address the gaps we identify.

Access the FULL report here: Closing the Racial Inequality Gap: The Economic Cost of Black Inequality in the U.S.

Compliments of Citi – a member of the EACCNY.