The Myth That Made Us: How False Beliefs about Racism and Meritocracy Broke Our Economy (and How to Fix It) (Hardcover)

The Myth That Made Us: How False Beliefs about Racism and Meritocracy Broke Our Economy (and How to Fix  It) By Jeff Fuhrer Cover Image
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How our false narratives about post-racism and meritocracy have been used to condone egregious economic outcomes—and what we can do to fix the system.

The Myth That Made Us exposes how false narratives—of a supposedly post-racist nation, of the self-made man, of the primacy of profit- and shareholder value-maximizing for businesses, and of minimal government interference—have been used to excuse gross inequities and to shape and sustain the US economic system that delivers them. Jeff Fuhrer argues that systemic racism continues to produce vastly disparate outcomes and that our brand of capitalism favors doing little to reduce disparities. Evidence from other developed capitalist economies shows it doesn’t have to be that way. We broke this (mean-spirited) economy. We can fix it.

Rather than merely laying blame at the feet of both conservatives and liberals for aiding and abetting an unjust system, Fuhrer charts a way forward. He supplements evidence from data with insights from community voices and outlines a system that provides more equal opportunity to accumulate both human and financial capital. His key areas of focus include universal access to high-quality early childhood education; more effective use of our community college system as a pathway to stable employment; restructuring key aspects of the low-wage workplace; providing affordable housing and transit links; supporting people of color by serving as mentors, coaches, and allies; and implementing Baby Bonds and Reparations programs to address the accumulated loss of wealth among Black people due to the legacy of enslavement and institutional discrimination. Fuhrer emphasizes embracing humility, research-based approaches, and community involvement as ways to improve economic opportunity.

About the Author

Jeff Fuhrer is a Foundation Fellow at the Eastern Bank Foundation. He was previously Executive Vice President and Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, where he was also responsible for the bank’s diversity and inclusion functions.

Praise For…

Included in Publishers Weekly's Fall 2023 Adult Announcements Business and Economics Top 10 List

"A thoughtful call for equality of economic opportunity, both provocative and, in the end, eminently practical."
—Kirkus Reviews

“Economist Fuhrer carefully deconstructs this myth and discusses discriminatory policies designed to disadvantage people of color, such as the exclusion of domestic and agricultural workers, who were disproportionately likely to be people of color, from New Deal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements…The troubling interviews and statistics underscore the difficulty of “making it” in America, and the proposed solutions are pragmatic and well considered. Readers will be outraged by this scathing indictment of America’s failure to live up to its meritocratic ideals.”
—Publishers Weekly

“I have a book to recommend. It’s called “The Myth That Made Us.” It’s by Jeff Fuhrer, an economist and former director of research at the Federal Reserve of Boston, and it’s really good. In it, he examines some of our sacred truths: That success goes to those who work hard; that we live in a land of opportunity, and in a meritocracy where individual effort is appropriately rewarded; that we should keep government out of the way and let markets work their magic; that racism never existed, or no longer affects outcomes for people of color. Fuhrer, now a fellow at the Eastern Bank Foundation, used to buy into parts of that myth himself. But then, some 15 years ago, the Fed in Boston began looking closely at what was going on in former industrial cities in Massachusetts, and he got the chance to have long conversations with many people who were doing everything they were supposed to but were still struggling.”
The Boston Globe, columnist Yvonne Abraham

"Fuhrer’s 30+ years of experience at the Federal Reserve also affords unique insights and evidence. First, we get an insider’s view into the myth related to certain roles of the government. The discussion of the Great Recession is one such compelling story; not only does this illustrate that government intervention is sometimes necessary, but it also points out who received the most (and least) support. Second, Fuhrer notes how his involvement with a community development initiative at the Fed led to his recognition of “gaps in mainstream economics.” The self-described change of heart may put readers in a more open mindset at the start, which is how this book should be approached. Finally, unique, especially for economists, is the inclusion of portions of interviews with economically disadvantaged individuals, which humanizes not only the detrimental consequences of the myth but also the potential solutions...This book is a nice addition to the discourse on inequality in the United States. One does not need any particular training to understand it, but interest and an open mind will help one to appreciate it fully."
Journal of Economic Literature

“I welcome Fuhrer adding his voice to those challenging the massive rise in inequality that we have seen in the last half century. If we are ever to make serious progress we need to have a lot people follow his path.”
—Dean Baker

Product Details
ISBN: 9780262048392
ISBN-10: 0262048396
Publisher: The MIT Press
Publication Date: September 12th, 2023
Pages: 384
Language: English