The Wealth of (Indian) Nations

The average household income on Indian reservations was 68 percent below the U.S. average of $53,657 in 2015. Twenty percent of the households made less than $5,000 annually compared to 6 percent for the overall U.S. population, and 25 percent of the population was below the poverty level.

Because reservations are scattered islands of poverty in a sea of wealth, the plight of 2.9 million American Indians is mainly ignored except by Washington bureaucrats. These bureaucracies had 9,000 employees and spent approximately $2.9 billion in 2012. The Bureau of Indian Education alone spent $850 million in 2012 or $20,000 per Indian student compared to a national average of $12,400. These bureaucracies and their spending have had little effect on the standard of living in Indian Country. The result is bureaucratic red tape that makes development virtually impossible.

Indian Nations suffer from poverty and unemployment because they lack property rights to their land, and they lack the rule of law necessary to attract the capital investment necessary to stimulate reservation economies. Native Americans can rise out of poverty and have the dignity they deserve in the long-run only if they remedy these issues.

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