Aspen Ideas Festival: The ZIP code reality — where you live matters

Mary Daly and David Brooks talk about economic and social opportunity.
Mary Daly and David Brooks discuss ways to build economic and social opportunity at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Riccardo Savi | The Aspen Institute

Mary C. Daly grew up poor in Missouri and dropped out of high school, but she ended up as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In this discussion, she highlights her new podcast, "ZIP Code Economies," which shares ideas from communities that overcame disadvantages to create more economic and social opportunity for all. She sees herself as a “seer” not an “observer,” and considers her role as “reverse mentoring.”

Daly spoke with David Brooks of the New York Times, PBS and NPR, who is also director of a new initiative called, “Weave: The Social Fabric Project” at the Aspen Institute.

Daly is a Ph.D. economist who believes that “economics is about people.” Economists often say “ZIP code is destiny,” so she says it is important to build a bridge, have shared goals and shared values even among people living in different places. Most people want to make the world a better place than they inherited, she adds.

In this Aspen Ideas Festival conversation, Daly shared several examples of success. “Tribalism is a very bad outcome in the United States. … The communities where we told the success stories were ones where they had abandoned tribalism for the idea that the community is the most important thing.”

Brooks added in response, “it’s important to think that the neighborhood is the unit of change. Neighborhoods rise and fall together. A friend of mine in Shreveport says, ‘You can’t only clean the part of the swimming pool you’re swimming in.’”

Daly concluded that “the ‘social network’ is your wealth. That’s the intergenerational transmission of hope.”

Daly and Brooks spoke June 28, 2019, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo.

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