There has been a move afoot of late in Texas to reduce or eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies in settings such as higher education and hiring. Such efforts run counter to my boyhood notions of Texas as an open and welcoming place. Irrespective of any purported rationale behind these efforts, they put the state on a slippery economic slope with potentially substantial adverse consequences.
We have studied these issues and engaged in extensive research and modeling to analyze potential economic implications of policies which appear to be discriminatory or exclusionary. Empirical studies indicate that non-discrimination protections encourage the location of knowledge workers and young workers in an area, thus contributing to the attraction and retention of high-growth industries conducive to long-term economic growth. In fact, research has demonstrated that non-discriminatory employment policies foster enhanced growth in technology enterprises. These positive effects would likely be magnified by policies assuring access to housing, public places, education, and employment opportunities. As the nation faces long-term shortages, a skilled workforce will be the currency of economic development. Policies which make Texas less attractive to this critical resource will be counterproductive.
Similarly, surveys of travelers and convention professionals demonstrate that full access is increasingly necessary for an active tourism market. Social policies which are perceived to be discriminatory can have a detrimental effect on travel and tourism by decreasing the attractiveness of an area to event planners and potential visitors. Controversial laws can reduce numbers of attendees, for instance, which can cause professionals who organize conferences and events to avoid such locations. In addition, scheduling an event in a location with a law that is considered to be harmful by some groups can be interpreted as support for the policy, and some organizations and sponsors will choose to avoid locations with controversial laws in order to avoid the appearance of approval of the public policy.
The potential economic stakes are sizable. In a prior study, we estimated that passing a comprehensive non-discrimination policy would bring Texas over $100 billion in annual gross product and more than 700,000 jobs by 2045. Business activity also generates tax revenue, and the potential stimulus associated with passage of such a measure would generate notable increases in tax receipts to the state and local governments. Moving in the opposite direction is clearly counterproductive.
Assuring that Texas creates a welcoming environment for all workers and visitors is a key to sustained and accelerated growth in several sectors that are crucial to the future economic performance and prosperity of the state in an increasingly competitive environment. DEI principles are important to ensuring Texas is seen as a welcoming place for all – which is essential to long-term success. Stay safe!
Dr. M. Ray Perryman is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com), which has served the needs of over 3,000 clients over the past four decades.