Is the tech economy a silver bullet against poverty? - Technical.ly DC

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Jun. 24, 2016 8:02 am

Is the tech economy a silver bullet against poverty?

Probably not. An article from CityLab's Richard Florida explores research that questions this assumption.
D.C. wants to stand out in tech.

D.C. wants to stand out in tech.

(Photo by Flickr user Pedro Szekely, used under a Creative Commons license)

Washington, D.C. wants to be a tech hub.

It’s an aspiration the city spends a (sometimes disputed) sum of money espousing at SXSW, promotes through programs like the creation of an Inclusive Innovation Incubator at Howard University and celebrates every year with #InnoMAYtion.

Why? Well, at least one reason lies in a belief that supporting a tech economy can boost the whole local economy and bring neighborhoods out of poverty. But how true is this?

A new study takes a look at who benefits from high-tech economic development, and Richard Florida explores this study in a recent article for CityLab.

By looking at “the effects of the tech industry (mainly information technology and biotech) on wages and poverty levels for some 300 U.S metros between 2005 and 2011,” the study finds that yes, metro areas with high-tech industries have less poverty than those without. However, “the study finds no evidence that high-tech industry helps to pull people out of poverty.”

Read Florida’s full analysis of the study here.

Income inequality is a seriously complicated issue, Florida writes, and “cities and metros can clearly not afford to think of tech-based growth as a perfect way to lift all boats and allow wealth to trickle down to lower-income residents.” Florida suggests that cities must take a more active role in ensuring┬áthat high tech economic development benefits all residents of a city through trainings and support for poor communities. Byte Back, or D.C.’s other digital inclusion initiatives, provide examples of the District doing just this.

What else can a city do? Another CityLab article from February provides some suggestions. As D.C. continues its quest to build a tech hub identity, these are issues very much worth considering.

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Companies: Howard University, SXSW
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