Two well-known researchers into Native American economic development continue to prove that the beneficial increases in American Indian incomes since the 1990s is due to self-determination and Indian self-government.
Since the early 1990s, per capita income on Native American reservations has grown three times faster than in the nation as a whole. One reason is that American Indians were, and still are the the poorest of any ethnic group in the nation.
In 2000, 39% of the population of Indians on reservations lived in poverty, and had incomes less than half the U.S. average.
But the gains made among the 1.2 million people living in Indian Country have been dramatic.
Two professors who have studied tribal development, since at least 1989, Stephen Cornell of the University of Arizona and Joseph Kalt of Harvard University just published a new paper, American Indian Self-Determination: The Political Economy of a Policy that Works.
Cornell and Kalt find that the source of Native American progress over the last few decades is self-government. Rising incomes can’t be attributed simply to casinos, greater federal spending or cultural assimilation, Cornell and Kalt show. Rapid increases in income took place only after powers retained by the federal government were given over to the tribes, beginning in the 1970s.