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The Racial Equity Budgeting Framework

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There are government officials throughout the United States who are actively pushing their institutions to adopt budgetary practices that are more responsive to public demands for social equity. However, it is not always evident what a socially equitable government would look like and how to embed social equity within government processes. In a study recently published in Public Administration, we developed the Racial Equity Budgeting (REB) framework to help orient practitioners and academics to the call for inclusive governance. It operates on three fundamental tenets from the Critical Race Theory (CRT) literature. Let’s delve into each aspect of this transformative approach to public budgeting.

1. Acknowledging Historical Biases:

To rectify past discrimination, it’s imperative to first understand its scope. This involves delving into historical spending data, dissecting socioeconomic and demographic factors, and identifying the effects of previous policies. This acknowledgment is not mere recognition; it’s a commitment to a multi-year path of correction. By openly addressing these biases, communities can pave the way for a more equitable future.

2. Amplifying Marginalized Voices:

Inclusion goes beyond token gestures. REB emphasizes proactive methods to include voices from underrepresented minorities. Traditional approaches like public hearings are augmented by innovative techniques such as door-to-door canvassing and online submissions. Legislators are urged to move from passive hearings to active community engagement, ensuring that the concerns of marginalized communities are not only heard but also integrated into the decision-making process.

3. Disrupting Existing Biases:

This tenet challenges the status quo. It demands a meticulous analysis of how policies affect various demographic groups. Disaggregated data is key here; it’s not just about overall impact but understanding how different segments of the population are influenced. By mandating detailed distributional analyses, budgetary decisions can be made that explicitly consider their effects on underrepresented groups.

Implementation and Challenges

Implementing the REB framework requires a holistic commitment from governmental bodies. Budget preparation involves quantifying historical biases, while execution demands targeted policies and continuous feedback loops. Audit and evaluation processes must be revamped to focus on the impact of programs on marginalized communities.

However, challenges persist. Resources are often stretched thin, hindering meticulous execution. The transition from acknowledging biases to disrupting them necessitates political will, rigorous data collection, and community engagement. Moreover, this framework’s applications should be context-specific, considering the unique historical and social fabric of each region.

A Path Forward: A More Inclusive Tomorrow

Embracing the REB framework isn’t just a choice; it’s a moral imperative. By weaving equity into the very fabric of budgeting processes, societies can pave the way for a more inclusive tomorrow. It’s not just about balancing the books; it’s about balancing the scales of justice. Through concerted efforts, transparent practices, and a commitment to active change, the REB framework offers a beacon of hope, guiding us toward a future where every citizen is truly seen, heard, and valued.


Published in Conversations from Public Administration, a blog that explores the research published in Public Administration and provides guidance on engaging in the public administration and policy research process.

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