When we launched My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) in May, we made it clear that closing opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color is an imperative not just to help the disadvantaged, but a necessary step to boost our nation’s economy as a whole. Businesses simply cannot afford to let a generation of workers slip through the cracks, and leaders from a range of Fortune 50 companies have joined in our effort since launch. This week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report reaffirming the urgency for the business community, outlining the significant impact of these opportunity gaps on aggregate earnings, the size of the labor market and our overall economic growth. For boys …

When we launched My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBKA) in May, we made it clear that closing opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color is an imperative not just to help the disadvantaged, but a necessary step to boost our nation’s economy as a whole. Businesses simply cannot afford to let a generation of workers slip through the cracks, and leaders from a range of Fortune 50 companies have joined in our effort since launch.

This week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report reaffirming the urgency for the business community, outlining the significant impact of these opportunity gaps on aggregate earnings, the size of the labor market and our overall economic growth.

For boys and young men of color, these systemic impediments begin at one of the critical life milestones identified by MBKA: the transition in a young man’s life from high school to the workforce. Black and Hispanic students graduate high school 17 and 13 percent less than their White peers, respectively. Over the course of their lifetimes, high school graduates pay more taxes, draw less from social welfare programs and are less likely to commit crimes.

The lag in graduation rates means only 12.4 percent of Hispanic men and 20.8 percent of black men have a college degree by their late 20s, compared to 37.7 percent of White men. These disparities will have significant long-range implications for our overall economy: Department of Labor projections suggest that by 2018, employers will need 22 million new workers with a post- secondary education – and only 19 million will be available.

My hope is that the CEA report will now spark dramatic action within the business community, as the benefits for corporate bottom lines become increasingly clear:

Expanding Educational Opportunities Will Improve the Overall Economy – The report shows that closing the education gap for men of working age (ages 16 – 64) would raise weekly earnings for U.S. workers as a whole by 3.6 percent, and raise total GDP by 2 percent – an increase of $2.1 trillion.

• Diverse Corporate Citizenship Involvement Helps Build Brands – Purchasing power for black and Hispanic men has more than doubled since 2000, making diversity initiatives a key resource in corporate brands and reputations. Research shows more than 85% of consumers consider whether a business is active in the community, a consideration that is significantly higher among Black and Hispanic buyers.

• Businesses Must Diversify Hiring Pools – Here’s the reality: America’s demographics are changing. By 2030, the majority of young American workers will be people of color. As the need for educated workers grows, the business community has an incentive to help shape the skills of an entire generation of future workers.

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative last year, he recognized that each of us has a role in closing opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. But our changing demographics poses challenges not just to this one community, but to our nation’s economy as a whole. The CEA report this week amplifies this national call to action more clearly than ever, and MBKA stands ready to answer the call.

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For U.S. Economy, Education and Opportunity Gaps are Costly