In May of last year, financial advice website WalletHub released a study gauging diversity among U.S. cities. The study examined several measures including racial, economic, household, and social class. Los Angeles came in at a respectable No. 12 among the nation’s 313 largest cities.

Our No. 12 ranking puts us behind five California cities: Oakland (3), San Jose (7), Anaheim (9), Sacramento (10) and San Diego (11). Given that diversity benefits both our communities and our businesses, I believe we should aspire to do even better.

A passive approach to diversity could lead to cultural resentment, artificially constrained employment, fewer opportunities for advancement for all of our citizenry, and economic stagnation.

Diverse communities contribute to a rich, culturally vibrant society and are an invaluable regional asset. Diversity is also good for business. Professionals from varying backgrounds, genders, and races bring different information, opinions, and perspectives resulting in fresh ideas as well as improved products and services. In fact, a 2015 study of public companies by management consulting firm McKinsey says those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean. Those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.

Our local policymakers, working alongside business, should be aggressive, starting with three initiatives to propel Los Angeles to the No. 1 spot and realize the “diversity dividend”:

California should double down on career training programs that increase job opportunities. For example, the Los Angeles Community College District serves an incredibly diverse student population. The district has put to good use funding from the California Department of Education’s Career Pathways Trust grants.

Blending academic and career technical education, the program connects employers with schools and trains students for jobs in high-demand fields such as information technology, advanced manufacturing, health care, and software. Young people from diverse backgrounds, whose best prospects were low-skill jobs prone to be replaced by automation and algorithms, are now qualified for skills-based careers with higher wage potential and upward career mobility.

Global outreach

Los Angeles should also seek to vastly expand its international trade base, which encourages diversity. As we have seen from established agreements such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Caribbean Basin Initiative, Panama-U.S. Trade Promotion Agreement, Colombian Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, robust international commerce creates new and better economic opportunities by opening markets, eliminating tariffs, reducing barriers to services, and boosting business revenues.


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