Resentment And Race In Reducing Government

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The U.S. Postal Service is planning a downsizing, which could disproportionately hurt African Americans,

The black middle class has been hit particularly hard by the recession; many of the economic gains earned over 50 years disappeared between 2007 and 2009.

The foreclosure crisis, lack of accumulated  wealth and the role of a college education in boosting job prospects have all contributed to the decline of the black middle class. Another big factor: cuts to government jobs. Much of the black middle class was built upon public sector jobs, which for decades allowed African Americans to circumvent discrimination in the private sector.

African Americans are over-represented in government jobs [PDF]. So even as the economy slowly adds jobs, government job losses continue to rack up, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Reducing government has been a hot political topic since 2010, particularly with the surge of the tea party movement, which has been accused of having racist undertones. But NPR points out that 70 percent of government job cuts happened in 12 states, all with Republican-controlled legislative bodies, and suggests that such job cuts have fostered resentment among African Americans. From NPR:

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Video: Can a TEDTalks-Like Event Boost Ward 8 Employment?

William Atkins / Courtesy of The George Washington University

George Washington University's School of Business dean Doug Guthrie talks (using a wireless mic) about how international investment can boost job creation in Ward 8.

There’s a serious unemployment divide in the District. Some areas have jobless rates as low as 3 percent, and others — like mostly black Ward 8 — have rates as low as 20 percent.

So what’s needed to boost employment in Ward 8? A jobs czar? Bridges and more development? How about having international experts and local activists talk about innovative, new ideas to spur job creation? You know, kind of like TEDTalks, but with a Ward 8 twist.

That’s kind of the idea behind the Major Projects Lab: Ward 8‘s job summit, the result of a partnership between The George Washington University’s School of Business and the Washington, DC Economic Partnership. The summit, held Tuesday at the university’s Foggy Bottom campus, focused on job creation in Ward 8.

Speakers didn’t delve deeply into the “complex social pathologies” that exacerbate and create unemployment disparities — literacy, adult male incarceration, teen pregnancy — because, as WDCEP’s president Steve Moore said, “all it does is solidify the thinking that we [already] have about how to go forward and how we think about economic development change. It seems like it justifies programs that have existed already and haven’t been all that damn successful.”

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The Pressure to Follow ‘Traditional’ Careers

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Earlier this week, we noted that the number of Indian Americans pursuing creative jobs has doubled over the previous decade. And a number of South Asian readers joined the conversation, sharing stories about familial expectations and jobs.

Commenter Anupama Pillalamarri writes “there was a lot of pressure on me to pursue a traditionally brown person career until I had a meltdown.” I followed up with Pillalamarri to find out more. She wrote to me:

My interest was in politics and history, but when I mentioned majoring in either of those, my mom told me to pick whatever engineering I liked best and major in that. Another time I told her I was taking a film class and she told me they “weren’t paying blah blah dollars a year for me to watch movies.”

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D.C. to Hire 4,000 More Youth for Summer Jobs

Courtesy of D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities

Youth work on a mural project in Anacostia during last year's D.C. Summer Employment Program.

Here’s some good news for District youth: nearly half of the jobs cut from the city’s summer employment program have now been restored.

City agencies, youth advocates and parents had been bracing for a summer with fewer structured activities for teens — budget cuts meant that the summer jobs program had to be scaled back by 8,000 jobs. But Mayor Vincent Gray announced Monday the city has found additional money and that 4,000 more teens can now get summer jobs, the Washington Post reports.  The extra money comes from revised revenue estimates, thanks to an improving economy. The program began Monday:

For the first time, applicants were asked to indicate their interests and employers were allowed to interview and screen applicants.

The first day of work on Monday appeared to run more smoothly than in recent years. Officials said only a few mix-ups were reported — such as participants arriving before their supervisors or requesting to be reassigned — but nothing unexpected.

The Department of Employment Services has a hotline to field calls, but the agency was mostly occupied with finding new placements for all the youths coming off the wait list. A department spokesman said the jobs would be found this week and participants would start July 5.

Last year, 20,000 youth had summer jobs. The program employs District residents ages 14 through 21 to earn minimum wage while working for local government and businesses.

Barry: “right now, 55 percent of the new hires are not D.C. residents.”

Over at the Afro, Dorothy Rowley writes “District’s Black Residents Remain Hard Pressed to Find Jobs“:

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute reported in October that while joblessness surged in part last year for the District’s African-American residents, employment remained relatively steady for its White residents and those with a college degree

“The city’s high unemployment rate is obviously not going to turn around simply because the overall economy recovers, DCFPI Executive Director Ed Lazere, told the AFRO. “Our leaders have to make this a priority and have to make concerted efforts to address it,” he continued, “and given that the unemployment rates are highest for residents in isolated wards who often have limited jobs skills, it seems pretty logical that concerted efforts would help residents get access to skills – whether it’s through high school, a community college or other means.”

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, agreed. But he said the key to fighting joblessness – particularly in his district – is contingent upon attracting the ears of the private sector and federal government. “The city’s initiative has to be to become more involved with the private sector and the federal government,” Barry said. “There are 700,000 jobs in the District of Columbia and 340,000 of them are with the federal government. The rest are in the private sector, so we have to get the District government to start hiring more city residents because right now, 55 percent of the new hires are not D.C. residents.”

Employment Prospects Worsen for some DC Residents

The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s report, “Packing a Punch: The Recession Hit African-American and Non-College Educated DC Residents Particularly Hard” is a must-read if you’re concerned with the disparities that affect this city:

Looking over a longer-term period, employment prospects have worsened noticeably over the past two decades for Black District residents and for residents with no post-secondary education. For these residents, job conditions have worsened even in periods when DC’s overall economy was growing.

Employment among African-American DC residents has fallen steadily since the late 1980s. The employment rate fell from 62 percent in 1988 to 56 percent in 2000 and to 49.5 percent in 2009. (The employment rate is the share of adults with a job.) If employment had not fallen since the late 1980s, some 31,000 additional African-American residents would be working today. Meanwhile, the employment rate for white residents has remained relatively steady.

WAMU’s Patrick Madden’s story, here.