Supporting Bold Goals: Ending Chronic Unemployment Among Men and Youth of Color
By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
Last month, we were honored to support the Campaign for Black Male Achievement in developing bold goals and indicators to help strategically guide the organization’s ongoing efforts to improve the life outcomes of black men and boys. While men and youth of color face a myriad of challenges in health, education, wealth, housing, and other social and economic outcomes, it’s clear to us and many others across the country that economic opportunity must be a key area of change. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that men and youth of color have access to employment and economic opportunity and we must measure our progress against these goals.
The stakes are high. Black Americans—and especially black men and youth—face unemployment at rates much higher than other Americans. In March 2016, the national unemployment rate for black men over the age of 20 hovered close to 9 percent. This is more than double the rate of unemployment for whites. Unemployment among black youth ages 16 to 19 nationally is over 25 percent, compared with 14 percent for white youth. Among black men, unemployment is nearly double that of white men of the same age group. In Los Angeles and New York City, about 30 percent of 20- to 24-year-old black men were out of work and out of school in 2014. The situation was even more extreme in Chicago, where nearly half of black men in this age group were neither working nor in school while the rate of unemployment was only 10 percent for white men in the same age group.
Without strategic national efforts to address the issue of high unemployment among men and youth of color, individual and family incomes will decrease, inequality will widen, and poverty will rise. Youth who are disconnected from work and school represent an estimated cost to society of upwards of $250 billion per year—or a loss of $4.7 trillion over the lifetime of an opportunity youth cohort. Being out of work for six months or more is associated with lower well-being among the long-term unemployed, their families, and communities. Unemployment leads to higher expenditures for unemployment benefits, food assistance, and health care, among other public benefits. When individuals are chronically unemployed, local, state, and federal governments forgo significant tax revenue in the form of income, property, and goods and service taxes.
We have solutions. We know what works when it comes to supporting pathways to employment, good jobs, and economic opportunity. We know it’s imperative that cities, states, and the federal government scale effective solutions—and ensure that current employment initiatives are well-implemented—so that everyone who wants to work has the tools and resources to do so.
We also know we must address the root causes of disproportionate unemployment and underemployment among men and youth of color, including discrimination, the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on the lives and economic futures of men and youth of color, the spatial mismatch of employment opportunities and access to transportation, and the availability of workforce services and other supports among other things.
Ending chronic unemployment for men and youth of color is a bold goal—and it’s also imperative. That’s why we’ll continue to partner with CBMA and other stakeholders to ensure that every person, including men and youth of color, has the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families.
Like what you read?
Read our My Brother’s Keeper Initiative stakeholder memo.
Explore our interactive timeline, which shows what the past 500 years means for the future of Black Male Achievement.
Learn about employment solutions for youth facing significant barriers to employment.