Latinos are projected to make up more than 30 percent of the US labor force by 2060. This episode of McKinsey’s Future of America podcast explores the economic experiences of Latinos in the United States and the prospects for their full participation in the US economy, based on lessons learned in a joint research project with the Aspen Institute. A summary of the results appears in the report The economic state of Latinos in America: The American dream deferred, published by McKinsey in partnership with The Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program in December 2021.
To share what this report uncovers about the economic state of Latinos in America, Domenika Lynch, head of the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program, and McKinsey’s Bernardo Sichel recently met with McKinsey’s Kweilin Ellingrud. Lynch and Sichel also suggest ways to break down barriers to economic participation and build a more inclusive economy. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Welcome to McKinsey’s Future of America podcast, where we explore how we can build a future that drives sustainable and inclusive growth. Join us in conversation with leaders who are accelerating progress to grow, broaden, and sustain prosperity for more Americans.
I’m your host for today, Kweilin. I’m the McKinsey Global Institute director and a senior partner based in Minneapolis. Today, I’m joined by Domenika Lynch of the Aspen Institute and Bernardo Sichel, a partner here at McKinsey. Domenika leads the Latinos and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, and Bernardo is based in Chicago, where he is a leader in McKinsey’s Consumer Packaged Goods Practice. Domenika and Bernardo, welcome, and thank you for being here today.
Bernardo Sichel: Thanks for having us.
Domenika Lynch: Thank you for having us.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Can you tell us a little bit more about your background? Domenika, let’s start with you.
Domenika Lynch: Sure, Kweilin. I am really excited that I am part of the Aspen Institute and the head of the Latinos and Society Program. It now feels like the pinnacle of my career and everything that I’ve been doing across the public and private sectors.
I want to start with a story that I think captures my “why” and my why at the Aspen Institute as the head of the Latinos and Society Program. As a first-generation college student at the University of Southern California [USC], I attended a gala where one of our top students was being honored at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Pretty Woman hotel. Being a guest there and being inspired by meeting doctors and lawyers, policy makers, presidents of universities that were Latino—they looked like me and gave me hope that one day I could be that too.
When a young woman got up on stage who was a peer of mine and was celebrated for her GPA, celebrated for her dream of becoming a doctor, she asked her mother to stand, and she said, “This award belongs to my mother, who for the first time in 25 years tonight is not a maid at the hotel but is an honored guest.” In that moment, all the servers came down. They lined up, and they had flowers. And we were all moved to tears. The recognition that in America that was possible—from one generation to the next, you can go from being the maid in a hotel as beautiful as the Beverly Wilshire Hotel to having a daughter that was bound to go to medical school—I wanted to be part of that movement and part of that work.
Through my work at USC, at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and now at the Aspen Latinos and Society Program, it is about that economic mobility. It is about the American dream and how it benefits us all. I was inspired then, and I’m still inspired when I tell that story. That is the why behind my work and a lot of what I do. We will talk more later about that.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Amazing. Thank you for sharing that incredibly touching story. Bernardo, I would love to hear a bit more about your background.
Bernardo Sichel: Thanks, Kweilin. I’m Bernardo Sichel. I’m a partner at McKinsey in our Consumer Packaged Goods Practice. I think more important than that, I’m a Latino myself as well. I migrated to the US 20 years ago with my wife to start a new life from our home country of Venezuela. We are proud parents of two first-generation boys that were born here in the US.
In my case, it was really during the pandemic that I decided to become much more involved with Latino topics. I raised my hand to be one of the coauthors of the study that we published last year along with the Aspen Institute. I am very happy to be here today, sharing the results of that study and sharing a little bit about my own story as well.
Addressing the opportunity gaps for Latino Americans
Kweilin Ellingrud: Bernardo, let’s begin at a high level. What’s the state of play for Latinos in America? And you were a coauthor on the report overall; I would love to understand the highlights.
Bernardo Sichel: Thanks, Kweilin. Let me first provide some context to the study itself. The study is the first major study that McKinsey has done on Latinos. We were trying to understand the enablers and barriers of Latino economic mobility and the impact that these enablers and barriers have not only on Latinos but on the overall economy.
To do that, we used secondary data, but we also used a survey of more than 4,000 respondents, trying to identify the gaps and potential solutions. The key message of the study—and I think it’s a critical one—is that while there’s evidence that Latinos are pursuing and achieving the American dream in terms of upward mobility, greater education, and middle-class stability, the economic parity of Latinos remains elusive for this group.
Let me provide some detail on the four different roles that we studied during this report, which are Latinos as workers, Latinos as business owners, Latinos as consumers, and finally Latinos as savers.
Everybody knows that Latinos are a fast-growing population, and they will represent one in four Americans by 2050. Everybody knows that Latinos are a rapidly growing labor force—they will make up more than one in five workers by 2030 and one in three by 2060.
What is less known is how dynamic this population is. Latinos have rates of intergenerational mobility comparable to Whites. At the lower segments, it’s much higher. For Latinos, if their parents are in the 25th percentile, there is a high chance that their children will be almost by the middle of the road in terms of wealth over time. However, Latino workers have a massive wage gap and underrepresentation in higher-paying jobs.
For example, Latinos receive only two-thirds of what their White counterparts are paid in the same occupations. Latinos that are born in the US represent 18 percent of the overall population. The size of this gap is like $300 billion. To put it in perspective, it is about half of the revenue of a company like Walmart.
If we look at Latinos as business owners, Latino business owners are growing at a huge rate, but they face huge challenges growing and scaling their businesses. Only 6 percent of all businesses in the US are owned by Latinos. Their revenues are only half of that of their White counterparts, and they have higher failure rates. Access to capital is a huge issue. Only one in three Latinos that go to get funding get approval. Three out of four Latinos have to use their personal funds to be able to start new businesses.
If we close this disparity, we’re talking about opening almost 800,000 new firms that will create more than seven million jobs. And that has the potential of creating $2.3 trillion in additional revenues to the US economy.
Finally, the role to highlight here is that Latinos are savers. They have only one-fifth of the wealth of White households, even though they’re growing at a 25 percent increase from one generation to the next. The issue here is low intergenerational transfer.
Only 6 percent of Latino households receive inheritances, versus 24 percent of White households. And when they do receive inheritances, it’s only a third of the size. This represents a gap that is more than $400 billion, which is comparable to a lot of the assets under management at many of the large investment firms.
Those are some very comprehensive things that we found in doing the study. And, again, the big picture to bring it back together again is one of growth for Latinos, but there is still a huge gap to fill, especially compared with Whites—and one that needs to be filled quickly if not only this group but also the US economy is going to achieve its goals in the decades to come.
The big picture is one of growth for Latinos, but there is still a huge gap to fill if not only this group but also the US economy is going to achieve its goals in the decades to come.Bernardo Sichel
Kweilin Ellingrud: Thank you, Bernardo. Domenika, your program at Aspen states that it’s committed to diversity of thought and inclusive growth. Tell us a bit more about your work at Aspen.
Domenika Lynch: Our North Star is about wealth creation and wealth building. We understand that the Latino community is so diverse, and the needs are going to be unique depending on the geography of where Latinos live. Our approach is both bottom up and top down.
In 2021, on the heels of confronting the challenges on the ground with the pandemic, we launched the City Learning and Action Lab and focused on how we could help with the equitable recovery of our businesses and strengthen the local ecosystems. We are currently in six Latino-majority cities. Those cities are Miami, Chicago, El Paso, San Antonio, Phoenix, and San Bernardino. We were led to those cities by members of our board but also because there is a high population of Latinos there.
In partnership with the Drexel University team and Bruce Katz, a renowned urbanist, we came together to understand how we can organize local leaders so that we can develop a shared understanding of what the local landscape looks like and how can we maximize this moment of federal investments.
Because the community is so diverse, we knew that what would work in Miami would not work in El Paso or San Antonio or Phoenix. For us, it was important to source local expertise, to understand how to bridge the knowledge gaps through peer learning and community building and also coaching from national experts.
The Aspen Institute’s tremendous convening power also allows us to attract investments in areas that have been overlooked and to understand what policies are necessary to create change and combat some of the disparities we see at the local level. It’s been a work of collaboration, coordination, and action. We’re now a year or so into the program, and we have seen some tremendous changes at the local level.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Bernardo, what one or two facts from the report stood out to you most?
Bernardo Sichel: I would actually share three. The first one, which is not a fact but is the biggest finding that we found, is that Latino economic mobility is no longer a Latino issue, it’s an American one. If we really want, as a country, to achieve our goals in the decades to come, we need to improve in a significant way the Latino participation in our economy. That is the first thing that really stood out to me, because it completely changes the narrative and even the interventions we need to do.
In terms of the positive, the thing that stood out to me is the level of entrepreneurial participation of Latinos. The report states that one in 200 Latinos starts a new business on a monthly basis. Let me give you two more facts around that. The growth rate of Latino businesses is more than twice that of Whites in the US, and that’s just impressive.
But the flip side of that, which is a little bit negative, is that the size of the gaps are astronomical. It really stood out to me that, for example, Latino workers at parity are receiving only two-thirds of what their counterparts in other demographics, especially Whites, are receiving. If you add that up, you’re talking about, in the case of workers alone, more than $300 billion of opportunity.
I would summarize it in those three ways. One is the big takeaway of this study, which is that this is no longer an issue of one demographic, Latinos, but much more a national one. The second one is just how entrepreneurial Latinos are. And the third one is the size of the gaps are still massive and need to be addressed in a very structural way.
Latinos as entrepreneurs
Kweilin Ellingrud: What can we do to better support Latino entrepreneurs?
Bernardo Sichel: If you go and look deeper into the Latino entrepreneurs, you will see things like Latinos are the most entrepreneurial yet still represent only 6 percent of total businesses. In the US, Latino-owned businesses are only 6 percent, whereas the total population is 18 percent, which is only a third of what it should be, if you see it from that perspective.
From a revenue perspective, Latino-owned businesses have only half the revenues of businesses owned by Whites in the US. From an access-to-capital perspective, Latino businesses, in 75 percent of the cases, use their own personal savings and networks to start businesses. Less than 50 percent of Latinos get funding from banks.
We need to change a few things to be able to fix this. Access to capital is absolutely essential. The second thing we need to do is to promote Latino businesses going into areas of the economy that have a higher survival rate and potential for growth.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Bernardo, can you tell me more about how Latinos are starting businesses at a higher rate but then the businesses themselves are growing at a slower rate compared to others?
Bernardo Sichel: Yeah, that is correct, Kweilin. The number of new businesses is growing at a higher rate than other demographics. That growth rate of new businesses is 12 percent for Latino-owned businesses, versus 5 percent for Whites. Once the business is up and running, the growth rate is not necessarily higher, and certainly the survival rate is lower, because they are in some sectors that have higher failure rates and because they lack the capabilities needed to scale up their businesses. You’re absolutely right: there is a difference between the number of businesses that are starting and how those are performing once they start.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Domenika, your program at the Aspen Institute states that it’s committed to diversity of thought and inclusive growth. Can you tell us a bit more about your work at the Aspen Institute?
Domenika Lynch: What we do at Latinos and Society is focus on building long-term economic growth and ensure that Latinos have an upward trajectory and that they can fully realize their potential and the American dream. We are great contributors to this economy. We are now quantifying how we contribute to our businesses. We are also more than ever educated and taking advantage of the opportunities in diverse sectors. What we find is that, at large, Latinos are not represented. We are not visible, so we are misunderstood.
The most exciting thing for me about the report that McKinsey did, as a Latina, is that I felt seen by such a big brand, and that had not happened before. I felt that it was great to be seen in an authentic way, where the report wasn’t just pandering to big numbers of Latinos.
Latinos have tremendous potential—$2.3 trillion worth of growth if our businesses grow, 6.6 million jobs created—yet it has stalled. And it could literally be out of reach if we’re not proactive about the interventions necessary.
Latinos have tremendous potential, yet it has stalled. And it could literally be out of reach if we’re not proactive about the interventions necessary.Domenika Lynch
That’s what the work we’re doing at Aspen is about. It is not just having this one report but really taking solutions that are cocreated from the community. That cocreation is what inspires young people to be owners of their destiny and not victims of circumstance.
That is why I’m so proud of Latinos in America: we live to our saying, Al mal tiempo, buena cara—in bad times, a good face. And even in the midst of the pandemic, when we were so hard hit—20 percent of Latinos, in terms of the unemployment rate, had to leave the workplace to take care of their children and their parents—we were still hopeful groups and positive and ventured out to start more businesses. Many of them are driven by young people that, in seeing their parents fall a little bit into despair, refuse to do so.
I think that is the story of America. I don’t see a difference between the Latino community and what the American narrative is and how it’s been for Italians and Irish and every other group.
The report captured it, but the report is also a tale of if we don’t do anything about it, if we don’t intervene to bring the resources to this community, it’s too large of a community to fail. It will bring the rest of the country down. That’s why it’s not a Latino issue, it’s an American issue.
Kweilin Ellingrud: So powerful, Domenika. Thank you for sharing that. Bernardo, what are your thoughts on mentorship for the Latino community?
Bernardo Sichel: Beyond mentorship, which is absolutely critical, the Latino business leaders have a huge responsibility. Think about how inspirational someone like [Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO] Roz Brewer is and the role she plays with women and with African American women in the community.
Many business leaders decide to put on hold getting involved until after they retire from whatever roles they have. I think that needs to change. A lot of it has to do with role modeling, and a lot of it has to do with inspiration. I think Latino leaders, myself included, need to get involved earlier. Beyond just formal mentorship, there’s a lot of role modeling and inspiration that we need to provide to our people.
Shrinking the Latino wealth gap
Kweilin Ellingrud: We talked about the dynamics within the Latino economy and the community’s economic outlook. Now let’s dive deeper into potential solutions. Latinos have a sizable wealth gap compared to their White peers, and median Latino wealth stands at about 20 percent of that of White households. Bernardo, can you help us drill down into this a little bit more? We know that US-born Latinos, for example, have greater wealth and income prospects compared to foreign-born Latinos. Why is this?
Bernardo Sichel: It’s in big part because of opportunity. You know, first-generation Latinos go through the educational process and have access to better jobs than maybe their parents did. It is about going through the whole journey and process that allows them to have better outcomes in terms of income. The income over time then generates the wealth that builds from one generation to the next.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Domenika, how can we ensure that foreign-born Latinos have access to sustainable and inclusive growth earlier in their immigration journey?
Domenika Lynch: When we think of new immigrants, it’s really important to think about how we create on-ramps to integrate them into mainstream living. When we don’t do that, they become a subset of the community, and then they’re not able to plug into the resources.
For Latino entrepreneurs, for example, the journey is always one that if the job opportunity doesn’t present itself, then you create it. You create it based on the talent and the skills you have. Whether it’s a good meal you can cook or a clean home you can have or a beautiful garden or landscape that you have, then that becomes sort of your first point of entry, and that helps you to start connecting with others. However, if you don’t have the education or a plug-in to the resources to grow your businesses, to understand financial systems, to be able to market yourself as a professional, then you’ve created just another job for yourself, and you will not have the opportunity for economic mobility or ability to scale your business.
For foreign-born Latinos who came for economic opportunity in the United States, it’s important to have Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. It’s important to have entrepreneurs serving organizations that are culturally competent and culturally relevant as they are welcoming new Latino immigrants.
Professional Latino immigrants—those that have degrees or are architects or dentists or lawyers in their own countries—also struggle because their degrees are not valued like they are in their home countries. They also have to connect to networks. Through those networks, they can understand how they can get certified once again or what kind of credentialing they need in this country. It’s a tragedy when you have a former dentist who is unable to get those new credentials and remains a taxi driver years later, after coming to the United States.
Onboarding professionals, especially if they don’t have family or community networks here, is extremely important. It’s access, but it’s also the infrastructure of opportunity that needs to be offered by that local community.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Bernardo, I want to explore a bit more this median wealth gap. Latinos have about 20 percent of the household wealth of white households. Why is that? How should we think about it?
Bernardo Sichel: The majority of the difference between wealth that you see of Latinos and non-Latinos happens because of intergenerational transfers. We are talking about inheritances between one generation and the next.
The huge difference that happens there is that only 5 percent of Latinos get intergenerational transfers, compared with more than 20 percent of Whites. And when Latinos do receive an inheritance, it’s a third of the size of what Whites receive. So their starting position is very different, not only because of the income that they’re generating but because of, again, the starting point they have.
That also explains why, from one generation to the next, you see those differences happen. It’s because the next generations not only get higher income, but they have a little bit of a better starting point than what their parents had when they arrived at the US. That’s one of the most compelling explanations of why the difference persists, but it’s also one of the reasons why this is something that’s going to take generations rather than years to be solved.
Latinos as consumers
Kweilin Ellingrud: We’ve explored Latinos as workers and their economic mobility. We’ve explored them as ntrepreneurs, as well as in terms of their wealth gap. I’d like to shift now to Latinos as consumers. The report states that there’s about $160 billion yearly of unsatisfied demand for Latino consumers. What can we do to better address the needs of Latino consumers?
Bernardo Sichel: What is driving that is really three factors. One has to do with access. The second one has to do with income. And the third one has to do with satisfaction with the products and services that are out there.
Going one by one, one is about access—just making sure that Latinos where they live have access to all the different categories of products and services they would be able and would be willing to pay for if they were available. It is no surprise for us to talk about food deserts, but it’s a lot more than just food deserts. It’s across many different categories, including telecommunications, housing, and others—health, et cetera.
The second one has to do with income, which is an obvious one. As income goes up, Latinos will have higher access to products and services they could not pay for before. I think the recent COVID-19 pandemic was a great example of how vulnerable this particular part of the US population is, as they had the biggest drop in terms of employment, in terms of consumption, of any demographic group.
Then the final thing has to do with satisfaction, and that is really providing products and services that cater to the needs and preferences of this population. It’s interesting, because we came up with and we’re doing a study now that goes into much more detail, but in many cases, we’re talking about Latinos willing to pay 10 percent or higher premiums for products and services if they were catered to their specific needs. This is not only a matter of language, but also a matter of the products and services really fulfilling the desires and needs that this part of the population has.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Domenika, what would you like to see from business leaders, from policy makers, to address this Latino consumption gap?
Domenika Lynch: What I found interesting in how McKinsey framed the consumption gap—and I hadn’t thought of it this way before—is how Latino businesses are uniquely positioned to fill that gap because they understand the nostalgia for certain products from their home countries but also specific needs for the Latino community.
It got me thinking about the access to capital and the support to understand how to grow their businesses, but you have a group of people that intuitively know the market without having all the analysis. They know what’s missing because they’re missing it, and they put together business plans to satisfy as best they can. What we need are more innovations around financial products—quality financial products that can help Latino businesses scale their companies.
I am really excited to work with companies like Coca-Cola. Thirty percent of the Coca-Cola bottlers in the United States are Latinos. So they’re going to understand certain drinks that are reminiscent with certain foods in the Coca-Cola family, and Coca-Cola has bought some of these products.
Those are the things that need to happen more and more. It’s a cocreation. It’s a public–private partnership where we’re seeing our products made by Latinos for Latinos, so we’re creating wealth, we’re satisfying the demand. That’s what’s so unique about the McKinsey report: that it didn’t just offer up Latinos for consumption. It is not “Oh, they need more shoes; Nike, please make more shoes.” It’s more about “Well, maybe there is a Latino version of Nike—our own company that can compete for the market.”
If there was a more intentional effort to understand the potential of the Latino market going into businesses and satisfying the consumption needs, then that’s exciting. I’d like to profile more and more of those companies.
Progress toward greater economic opportunity
Kweilin Ellingrud: I’d love to shift to looking at where we are today but in a more historical perspective. Bernardo, let’s start with you and then shift over to you, Domenika. Where are you seeing progress in access to this Latino economic opportunity?
Bernardo Sichel: I think that the trends are very clear. Even if you take the four different roles that the study took, in each one of them, you see structural progress in the last few years, maybe with the retrenchment that we have seen during COVID-19.
The trend is very clear. It’s very clear in terms of intergenerational mobility. That’s maybe where you have the highest level. I’ll give you a number here that was really surprising when we did this study. For parents who were in the 25th percentile, their children have the chance of being in the 46th percentile. The growth in terms of mobility is absolutely fantastic and is happening all over the place.
To me, it’s much more about how can we accelerate this to achieve the entire potential of the demographic. It’s going in a positive trend; it’s just not going fast enough. As we discussed in the beginning of our conversation, this is no longer an issue of Latinos alone. If this trend doesn’t accelerate, it’s going to have an impact on the overall economy.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Domenika, in your interactions with young Latino leaders, are you seeing progress—a change in culture or the optimism you were mentioning before?
The growth in terms of mobility is absolutely fantastic and is happening all over the place. It’s going in a positive trend; it’s just not going fast enough.Bernardo Sichel
Domenika Lynch: I am. I see young people that are socially and consciously aware, not only of their own progress but of the power of investing in their education, of being also connected to brands and businesses that do good for our community and that are inclusive of our own narrative.
I have a grown son, and he’s very intentional about how he shops. It’s really important for him that we support products and businesses that do good by the community—by Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities. We know that in general with Generation Z, the millennial generation; we already have seen that.
I’m optimistic. The one piece I worry about is a little bit of getting frustrated and discouraged. There are some hard challenges, from climate change to even as we tackle structural racism and discrimination. Change isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take intentionality from all of us. And optimism is a requisite for change; there is no substitution for it. That’s what makes me both excited and a little nervous about when we all get too frustrated in our silos, because cynicism is really what we have to guard against. But overall, I’m very optimistic.
Creating a more sustainable, inclusive future
Kweilin Ellingrud: Thank you both for sharing your insights with us today. I love the examples of different Latino brands, the examples of the racial wealth gap, and also the state of entrepreneurship and more businesses starting in the Latino community, but there is a real gap in terms of financing and growth.
We’re wrapping up each of our Future of America episodes with a rapid-fire Q&A. Domenika, I’ll start with you. Is there a book or an article you’ve read recently that excites you about a more sustainable and inclusive future?
Domenika Lynch: Yes. Absolutely. A book that was written during the pandemic by a woman, and it’s called What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society. It’s written by Minouche Shafik; she is the director of the London School of Economics.
I was so inspired by it because one of the first stories that she opened up with was about being in Ecuador, which is my home country, and witnessing the birth of a little girl in the Amazon forest, and how her parents were going to name her after the author, Minouche. She wandered the trajectory of these two lives. In this moment of the pandemic for her, it’s really about all hands on deck and recognizing the interdependency that we have, all around the world. The pandemic brought us together—how what affects one of us affects all of us.
She also gives some solutions, and most importantly she made me very aware of, even in the United States, how many generations it’s going to take to go from low income to middle income in different countries. I was a little heartbroken to read that in the United States, she projected five generations, which is not my experience and isn’t the experience of that story I opened up with—that from one generation in this country, you can go from cleaning a fancy hotel to becoming a medical doctor.
I highly recommend it. It’s very inspirational and very timely. There is a lot of good wisdom there.
Kweilin Ellingrud: What makes you optimistic that we can achieve sustainable and inclusive growth?
Domenika Lynch: Local and national leaders. The work of the Aspen Institute, convening thoughtful people that care so much about human progress—our collective, shared humanity and good life experience. It’s a short life. To bring people together, to roll our sleeves up and to say, “We can change this” is important. I think that as long as we can see it at the local level and then bridge that with national leaders, real change will happen. That’s what makes me optimistic, particularly in where I am, where I sit, at the Aspen Institute.
To bring people together, to roll our sleeves up and to say, ‘We can change this’ is important. As long as we can see it at the local level and then bridge that with national leaders, real change will happen.Domenika Lynch
Kweilin Ellingrud: What is the one thing that listeners can do today to help promote sustainable and inclusive growth for Latinos in particular?
Domenika Lynch: Through this journey, if we’re talking about scaling and accelerating change, like Bernardo said, it is important to be mindful of your own company’s habits, where you work, and even companies that we own.
For example, at the Aspen Institute, I’m now sitting on the procurement committee. I really want to understand who our suppliers are. If there is an opportunity to create spaces for Black, Latino, and Indigenous businesses, so that we can walk our talk, especially at the Aspen Institute, we do that.
I’m really proud that my colleagues are very intentional. We’ve learned that in moments of crisis, change is very difficult. It’s necessary, but it’s also very difficult. When it comes to how we procure services and goods, efficiency will always trump equity. Always. So we have to be careful and mindful. I’m paying more attention where I work in terms of our procurement habits and making sure that that’s a door we can open and be intentional about.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Thank you, Domenika. Bernardo, I’d love to shift to you. Is there a book or an article you’ve read recently that excites you about a more sustainable and inclusive future?
Bernardo Sichel: As part of the work that I do combining consumer and technology, I went back to an article in a presentation by a South African author named Busi Radebe at Harvard’s Growth Lab, at the Symposium on Inclusive Growth and Development. It’s called “Re-inventing the corner store.”1
The premise of what he came up with is how to give access to technology and how to build an ecosystem of corner stores so that the stores can not only have more access to financial services but also create some scale in procurement and generate jobs and well-being for the owners of those stores.
There’s certainly no reason why that’s something that needs to be confined to South Africa or Latin America or other emerging markets. It’s very much the reality of many Latinos in the US. When I saw that, I was inspired and thought about the impact it could have at home.
I really recommend it. The paper is dense, but the presentation at the Growth Lab at Harvard is very inspiring.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Wonderful. What makes you optimistic that we can achieve sustainable and inclusive growth?
Bernardo Sichel: I would say two things from my side. The first one is the resilience I have seen from Latinos during COVID-19. The other is awareness, despite the political rhetoric, that inclusivity is an absolute must to achieve our common goals in the future. I would say those two things give me hope that we are heading in the right direction.
Kweilin Ellingrud: What’s one thing that listeners can do today to help promote sustainable and inclusive growth?
Bernardo Sichel: I think it’s critical not to leave this to policy makers. It’s about our daily decisions that make a difference at the end of the day. If you’re a business owner, I would say, provide equitable pay. Most likely, those frontline workers that you have are Latinos. Also, create job opportunities and internships, et cetera, for Latinos. That would be amazing.
For consumers, as Domenika touched upon, it’s about our daily choices on what we buy and what we consume. It is about the little things that each one of us does on a daily basis that make up the big impact over time.
Kweilin Ellingrud: Thank you, Domenika and Bernardo. That was Domenika Lynch, executive director of the Latinos and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, and Bernardo Sichel, a partner in McKinsey’s Chicago office. I’m Kweilin Ellingrud. You have been listening to McKinsey’s Future of America podcast series. Thank you for joining us.