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The Journal of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University


As part of the national racial reckoning in the United States, reparations for African Americans have been proposed to correct the injustices of slavery and discrimination. The main economic goal of reparations is to close the racial wealth gap. While the gap is substantial, uncertainties remain about the program’s scope, magnitude, method, financing, effectiveness, and equity. Potential methods include lump sum or monthly cash payments, targeted investment in the Black working class, college scholarships, health care subsidies, favorable home loans, a trust fund for borrowing, and institutions to promote community building. Design of the reparations program is crucial to ensure recipients do not transfer the benefit back to payers when spending the benefit on goods and services. For this reason, reparations must invest in African American workers’ productive capacity, job skills, and training. Despite the potential economic benefits, concerns remain regarding equity and political feasibility. Policymakers should carefully weigh the benefits and costs of a reparations program and pay attention to how the design impacts its effectiveness and equity.

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