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White House report suggests large gains for investing in men of color

The U.S. economy would grow by 2 percent if labor force participation among men of color was equal to that of white men, according to a report released Tuesday by the Obama administration that is intended to highlight White House efforts to reach out to young minority men.

If the nation closed the gap in educational attainment, men of color would earn as much as $170 billion more annually, the report found.

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White House officials said the report demonstrates the impact investment in communities such as Baltimore can have. The administration has been leading an effort, called My Brother's Keeper, that encourages private companies and philanthropic groups to spend money on job training and educational programs geared specifically at young men of color.

"We can, indeed, reverse these trends," said Broderick Johnson, who chairs the My Brother's Keeper initiative and who grew up in Park Circle. "We can transform their lives, their communities and the economic prosperity of this nation."

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The report had some particularly sobering news for Baltimore, suggesting that when compared with the nation's 100 largest counties the city came in worst in the nation in terms of economic mobility. The report found that every year of youth in a low-income family in Baltimore reduced a child's adult earnings by nearly 1 percent.

It is not clear how the report accounted for comparing a city to counties, which tend to incorporate more upwardly mobile suburbs. Baltimore is rare in that its surrounding county is an entirely separate entity from the city itself.

Social and economic disparities in Baltimore have received renewed attention from policy makers in Washington following the death of Freddie Gray and subsequent riots earlier this year. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Joint Economic Committee held a hearing in the city last month in an attempt to call attention to some of those issues.

The lawmakers focused most of their discussion around a report that found higher levels of unemployment among African Americans. The unemployment rate for blacks in Baltimore, 14.8 percent, is more than two-and-a-half times the 5.8 percent rate for whites, the report found.

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Obama, who is set to speak today to the annual NAACP conference taking place in Philadelphia, launched the Brother's Keeper initiative in 2014, marking at least a symbolic departure for a president who had previously resisted focusing policies on individual racial groups.

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