Reducing unemployment among D.C.’s young people will help reduce crime, according to a new report by D.C. think tank Justice Policy Institute.
The group, whose mission is to lower the incarceration rate, found that neighborhoods with high crime rates also have high unemployment rates, particularly among young people. A previous report found a similar connection between boosting education levels and public safety.
D.C. has an unemployment disparity, in which joblessness is very low in wealthy neighborhoods, while low-income neighborhoods have Depression-era unemployment rates. The Justice Policy Institute report also showed how unemployment is chronically high in places with a lot of crime:
Youth workers, teachers and activists often point to jobs as a way to keep youth busy and out of trouble. The authors note that not having a job can lead “to feelings of worthlessness, futility and disenfranchisement.”
For young people from economically depressed areas in D.C., developing survival skills such as avoiding violence, finding a meal, and staying out of trouble may have taken precedence over honing other marketable workforce skills more valuable to employers. As compared to their more advantaged peers who may have received more preparation from their family, school and overall community environment, youth from low-income areas of the District may need additional guidance to meet the expectations of the workplace.
The report includes some recommendations, including matching young people to programs in fields they’re interested in and getting employers to hire young people who have completed job programs, regardless of whether they have criminal records.
We’ve previously explored the impact of high unemployment and communities, finding that it contributes to a cycle of crime. Also, people with criminal records find it very difficult to get hired. About 10 percent of District residents have a criminal record.