About six months ago, the Missourian’s business reporters gathered around a conference room with a statistic and an idea.
“(Boone County is) among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder,” according to the New York Times. “Better than only about 17 percent of counties.”
We’d heard about this income inequality before from the city of Columbia’s 2016-2019 strategic plan, but we didn’t understand what was causing it. We began to probe into one of this city’s most troubling queries: Why doesn’t living in Columbia, with its low unemployment rate and slate of opportunities in higher education, offer an edge to transplants and locals alike?
To answer that question, each reporter studied channels that historically generate inequity, speaking with citizens on the forefront of this deeply rooted imbalance and experts who could help explain it. We found disparities between blacks and whites in the high school dropout rate, rulings in the criminal justice system, access to primary health care and levels of homeownership.
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