Today, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC); Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Vice Chair of the JEC; and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS), Native American Caucus Co-Chair and member of the JEC released a new analysis on the persistent structural barriers facing Native American communities and how they hinder economic opportunity, mobility and well-being.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Approximately one in six Native American families lives below the poverty level.
- The median household income among Native Americans is $25,000 a year less than that of non-Hispanic white households.
- More than 1 in 10 Native American households are unbanked, a figure three times higher than the national average.
- Lack of access to hospitals and adequate health care made Native Americans more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19 and die than non-Hispanic white Americans.
Native Americans face barriers to accessing quality education and jobs, which reduces economic mobility and leads to disparities in labor participation, educational attainment and income. Native households and enterprise also lack access to credit and financing, which blocks pathways to building wealth. Together, these have far reaching impacts on the broader economy.
Expanding economic justice for Native communities will require keeping up with trust and treaty obligations and a broad basket of proactive structural policies. To help address the immediate public health and economic impacts of the coronavirus, the American Rescue Plan invested over $31 billion in Native American and tribal communities, making it the single largest federal investment in Indian Country in U.S. history. Investments in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including $11 billion for tribal entities, were an important first step to addressing pervasive structural barriers that limit economic opportunities among Native communities and restrict broad-based economic growth.
Congressman Beyer, JEC Chairman, said:
"Our economy does better for everyone when everyone is doing better. As this report underscores, there is much more to be done to remove structural barriers and ensure all Native American communities can contribute to—and benefit from—economic growth. Native Americans face disparities in educational attainment, employment and income that are a result of, and a contributing factor to, pervasive wealth gaps that limit economic security and opportunity for Native American families, enterprises and governments.
"The Biden Administration has taken significant steps, through the bipartisan infrastructure law and the American Rescue Plan, to support tribal nations in addressing gaps in health care, housing, transportation and broadband. These investments bolster tribal-led efforts to improve health, educational outcomes, entrepreneurship and wealth among Native American families, and as these data show, Congress must do more to truly promote an economy that works for all."
Senator Heinrich, JEC Vice Chair, said:
“With this report, we can increase awareness about the longstanding issues that have limited Tribal nations and work together to ensure the opportunity they deserve.”
Congresswoman Davids, Native American Caucus Co-Chair and member of the JEC, said:
“This report from the Joint Economic Committee shows how closely related issues of health, economic stability, housing, and education truly are,” said “To address the pervasive wealth gap that Native American families face, we must think broadly about lowering barriers to homeownership, increasing educational opportunities, and improving access health care. We’ve begun to do so with the American Rescue Plan and bipartisan infrastructure law, and this report continues the essential work of defining and exposing areas for further steps towards self-determination in tandem with Tribal governments.”