Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Public Health And Racial Inequality: Why Opportunity Zones Fail Low-Income Communities And Costs Lives
Katie Raitz (J.D. 2021, UC-Irvine), Note, Public Health and Racial Inequality: Why the Opportunity Zone Program Fails Low-Income Communities and Costs Lives, 12 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 315 (2021):
“The rich man’s dog gets more in the way of vaccination, medicine and medical care than do the workers upon whom the rich man’s wealth is built.”
Poor health outcomes are linked to long-standing wealth disparities for people of color in the United States. Wealth inequality has gotten worse over the past decades, despite attempts to improve it. The 2017 Opportunity Zone (OZ) tax program is the federal government’s most recent economic-development intervention. The OZ program provides for low-income census tracts in each state to be designated as “Opportunity Zones” and offers tax benefits for people who make investments in certain types of businesses and properties in OZs. Notwithstanding the bipartisan popularity of the OZ program, this Note reveals why it is largely symbolic and will fall short of its policy goals. Specifically, this Note argues that the OZ program will not increase the income or wealth of OZ community members.
In addition to describing the flaws of the program, this Note explains why it should be replaced with economic-development policy that makes direct cash payments to low-income community members. The disparate infection and death rates of COVID-19 on communities of color demonstrate the need for substantive, rather than symbolic, federal economic-development interventions.