Skip to comments.Young, Black, Male and Unemployed
Posted on 04/18/2002 9:01:15 AM PDT by Armando Guerra
April 18 Some Washington policymakers say marriage can get women out of poverty and off welfare. But for black women, a new study suggests that may be complicated by a difficult fact employment of the men they're most likely to marry has slipped for the last 20 years, leaving fewer and fewer potential breadwinners.
Only 52 percent of young, less-educated black men ages 16 to 24 with a high school education or less are employed now, compared to 62 percent 20 years ago, according to a new report by Paul Offner and Harry Holzer of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
Young, less-educated Hispanic and white men leave their black counterparts lagging about 30 percentage points behind in the job market a "troubling and mystifying" statistic in Offner's view, but a revealing one. "This is heavily, I am afraid, an African-American problem," he said.
Offner and Holzer say their research has serious implications for the welfare debate, since welfare rolls are disproportionately black.
Is Marriage the Answer?
The nation's welfare law, up for reauthorization this year, is generally perceived as a success. Caseloads have been slashed in half in the last five years, and more single mothers are working now than ever before.
At the same time, though, the proportion of births to single mothers has not declined, and it is this statistic that some policymakers have in their sights. Much of the focus surrounding the welfare law has already trained on the marriage potential of women on welfare.
But policymakers must also look at the employment potential of young black men, Offner and Holzer say.
"Efforts to boost the marriage rate will depend at least in part on the ability of young men to find jobs," the researchers say in their report. "Given the characteristics of most mothers on welfare, policies to improve those employment prospects would need to focus on young minority men, particularly blacks, with no more than a high school education."
Taking the plight of young black men into account brings perspective to the welfare debate, said William Spriggs, director the National Urban League's Institute for Opportunity and Equality. "If you only look at women and not at men then you could run around thinking all we have to do is get these women married," he said. "If you look at the data, if those guys married somebody they'd still be poor."
Young Blacks Left Behind
In the larger picture, black men are better off economically than they were 20 years ago. College enrollment has increased steadily. Black men even control the reins at companies such as American Express, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch and AOL Time Warner.
But for young black men with only a high school diploma, or less, the picture has turned more bleak.
Instead of benefiting from the boom of the 1990s, Offner and Holzer say, employment for these young black men declined fairly continuously between 1989 and 1997, despite the strong economic recovery that occurred after 1992.
Why have some young black men been so far left behind in the labor market?
The disappearance of manufacturing jobs has taken away decent paying jobs for unskilled men. At the same time, young, less-educated black men are now competing with recent immigrants for dwindling unskilled jobs.
The study's authors cite child support enforcement as another roadblock. When non-custodial fathers get jobs, there is an immediate withdrawal of child support for welfare payments. "Their incentive to work has been reduced, so that even when they get a job they will take home less," Offner said.
Incarceration is also a significant factor. A lot of less-educated black men have been in prison, and their criminal records could deter employers from hiring them.
New government statistics show that 13.4 percent of black males age 25 to 29 were in prison or jail, compared with 4.1 percent of men and 1.8 percent of white males. A look a juvenile detention centers reveals a similar picture: In 1997-98, African-American youth represented 15 percent of the total youth population, but were 26 percent of the youth arrested, 31 percent of the youth referred to juvenile court and 44 percent of the youth detained, according to the Justice Policy Institute.
Debts Grow With Time Served
For incarcerated men, child support payments can be particularly daunting because they build up during time served, leaving some men deeply in arrears when they get out of jail.
Then there is the issue of racial discrimination. That's one plausible explanation for why young Hispanic men fare better than their black counterparts in the job market, Spriggs said.
Young Hispanic men with little education are significantly more employed than blacks even though many likely face language barriers and may have been educated in countries with less advanced school systems.
"Many [unskilled young men] are probably looking for 'male' jobs, such as construction and manufacturing, but there are fewer and fewer so you have stiffer competition over those jobs," Spriggs said. "Therefore they are more likely to discriminate in that situation."
So far, welfare reform proposals focus on women, but Offner and Holzer have sent a packet of their own ideas promoting employment of young men to Congress.
The researchers suggest:
* Providing states with money to create jobs and training for young, less-educated men.
* Changing work requirements in the welfare bill so that the employment of a non-custodial father can help satisfy the mandate.
* Expanding the earned income tax credit so single fathers can get more generous tax credits if they go to work.
* Providing funds to help people getting out of prison reintegrate into society and find jobs.
Getting to the Policy Table
A report out this week from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and one that could hold lessons for how to improve job prospects of young black men suggests that workplace development programs for young offenders can actually help. While the average juvenile justice center has a 50 to 70 percent recidivism rate, the study said, institutions with well-designed workforce development programs had just 20 percent recidivism.
David E. Brown, a co-author of the report, said the benefits of job programs for court-involved youth are becoming clearer even as the Bush administration plans to gut funding for such initiatives. Bush's 2003 budget provides more funding for the Job Corps program, but cuts much more money from similar initiatives.
"That's great to see the [Job Corps] program growing," Brown said, "but the increase is a fraction of the cuts."
Some experts hope Offner and Holzer's research will help propel the employment situation of young black men into the policy debate.
"It's difficult for individual workers and sometimes individual employers to resolve these issues without an intervention by government or a forum in which they might be redressed," said Margaret Simms, vice president for research for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. "We're at the point where it needs to move to the policy agenda, and there not much indication that's taking place."
The tone of the article suggests that young, black males are not "husband material", yet does not question why they are father material.
The "expert suggestions" are for more government programs for training yet don't agree with marriage as a solution. However, they point out delinquent support payments as a problem. If the young, black male were married to the mother of his children, support obligations would not be incurred. I strongly believe from my work experience that the black unemployment rate has not gone down because of the strong disincentive of support obligations. I have heard, more often than I care to count, that working is not worth it when most of the paycheck will disappear anyway. Real unemployment is not as high because jobs are being worked under the table to avoid support payments.
Once again, the "experts" are pushing the same tired and failed job programs when, in reality, Bush and the social conservatives are correct. A young man who must stick around because of marriage is less likely to run around and father numerous children. If he is married and living with his family, he does not have to pay court ordered support. If he is not ordered to pay support and incurring large support obligations, he is more inclined to work and do so in normal, above the table jobs. If the father is part of the family unit his children are less likely to end up in poverty and with criminal problems. This is a problem primarliy affecting the black community. It is the breakdown in the black family unit that has lead to it. The welfare laws have been against the family unit for too many years. It is time to change the welfare and tax laws that are against the family unit.
yup. poor kids didn't have teachers who worried about their self esteem, or wanted the kid's opinion on how words should be spelled and sentences constructed, their teachers didn't try to help them "appreciate" or "internalize" mathematics-
Nope, these poor kids had teachers who drilled them in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and smacked the snot out of them if they misbehaved.
These young men from "primitive" school systems are probably better educated than a lot of our kids.
And the illegals I see sweating their @$$e$ of in the Texas summer for chump change could probably teach a lot of our youngsters about being a man and providing for your family as well.
The solution is to eliminate welfare entirely. It costs a bunch and has done nothing but foster increasing populations of 'rat voters and criminals. Let charities help the poor, black, white, yellow or brown.
Oh, many are employed all right, it's just not the kind of job that you would file a 1040 form to report income for. Dealin' - easy money, alluring lifestyle. You can see it any day of the week on certain street corners.
Your observations are spot on for the high school drop outs population. For unskilled, marginally educated people, attitude is everything.
Perhaps this attitude itself has something to do with criminal records and lack of education, as well.