Jobs for the Young, not the Vets

By Alternative Schools Network, Special for  USDR

The connection between concentrated, systemic joblessness and the spate of violence that has put Chicago onto front pages across the world is brought into clear focus when considering the results of two recent  studies.

A new report, Abandoned in their Neighborhoods: Youth Joblessness amidst the Flight of Industry and Opportunity, commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) and developed by the University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute (GCI) found strong evidence that teens and young adults are suffering from “a downward and long-term trend of economic abandonment in many of Chicago’s neighborhoods, leaving behind chronic and concentrated conditions of  joblessness.”

And a recent paper issued by the University of Chicago Crime Lab shows that despite having only 9 percent of Chicago’s population, five neighborhoods – Austin, Englewood, New City, West Englewood and Greater Grand Crossing – accounted for 32 percent of homicides in  2016.

The GCI report found a strong correlation between that crime data and youth joblessness. In those neighborhoods jobless rates for teens (16-19), based on 2011-2015 averages from American Community Survey Data, stood at 91 percent in Austin, 89 percent in Englewood, 79 percent in New City, 88 percent in West Englewood, and 91.8 percent in Greater Grand Crossing. For young adults (20-24) joblessness remained high, at 59 percent in Austin, 67 percent in Englewood, 49 percent in New City, 70 percent in West Englewood and 66 percent in Greater Grand  Crossing.

“Our youth are willing and ready to work, but the opportunities are not here,” said Illinois U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-9. “If we want to end the gun violence epidemic, we must address youth unemployment, especially among minorities. If our President is truly interested in helping to stop the violence in Chicago, he should start by providing young people, especially those in low income communities, with good paying  jobs.

GCI found that despite a national economic recovery, Chicago remains one of the nation’s leaders in youth joblessness, especially for Black and Latino young men. Some 85 percent of Chicago’s Black teens (16-19) and 82 percent of Latinos were out of work in 2015, compared to all teens that age at 71 percent both in Illinois and  nationwide.

For 20-24 year-olds, 43 percent of Black men, 18 percent of Latino and 9 percent of white young men were jobless and out of school in Chicago in 2015. This is compared to 37 percent for Black men and 14 percent for Latino men in that age group in Illinoisand 29 percent for Black men and 16 percent for Latino men  nationwide. 

“The best anti-poverty, anti-crime program is a job,” U.S. Sen. Richard “Dick” Durbin, Minority Whip, said. “That’s why I’m committed to making vital federal investments in job training and economic development for youth in Chicago and across the country. If we can start providing these young people with more employment opportunities, we could see a dramatic reduction in the violence in our  city.”

The new GCI report shows that the employment crisis in Chicago, especially for Black and Latino youth, is “tied to long range trends in the overall loss of manufacturing jobs; and most notably, that joblessness among young people is tied to the emptying out of jobs from neighborhoods, which is in contrast to jobs that are being centralized in Chicago’s downtown areas where whites are employed in professional and related  services.”

The crisis in Chicago was compounded by the hard blow young people suffered from the steady outflow of the relatively higher-paying manufacturing jobs from 1960 to 2015. In 1960, 45 percent Latino and 22 percent of Black teens (16-19) in Chicago had jobs worked in manufacturing. By 2015, that number had dropped to 6 percent for Latinos and 0.4 percent for Blacks. For young adults (20-24), 58 percent of Latinos and 30 percent of Blacks worked at manufacturing jobs in 1960 compared to 10 percent for Latinos and 3 percent of Blacks in  2015.

With the loss of manufacturing in Chicago came the flight of jobs from neighborhoods and the concentration in the central core, where whites (36.8 percent) are employed in professional and related jobs and Blacks (45.7 percent) and Latino (39.7 percent) are in  retail.

“This is a monumental policy failure,” said Jack Wuest, Alternative Schools Network executive director. “It’s little wonder that so many of our youth succumb to the gangs when the programs to give them an alternative are being squeezed out or shut down. The young people are telling us they want jobs. But there are no jobs they can get to. This is a litany I will keep repeating: Investments in creating meaningful work for these youth will pay dividends immediately and for years to come. A failure to do so has had and will continue to have dire consequences for our city and our  state.”



For Black and Latino youth in Chicago, if jobs are coming back at all after the Great Recession, they are doing so more slowly than in other places. In 2015, employment conditions were worse than in the U.S. overall for both 16 to 19 and 20 to 24 year  olds.


GCI researchers dug into data that shows a connection between the joblessness of young people in Chicago’s majority Black and Latino neighborhoods and the emptying out of jobs from those neighborhoods. In contrast jobs have moved to Chicago’s downtown areas where mostly whites are employed in professional and related  services.


For 16 to 19 year olds, communities with high jobless rates are primarily located in the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. The lowest rates are in community areas with the highest concentrations of  Whites.

Jobless rates for 20 to 24 year olds by community areas show a sharp contrast between the predominantly Black South and West sides and all other parts of the city that have comparably lower jobless rates. The lowest jobless rates in the city are in the predominantly White community areas where rates are less than half of those on the South and West  sides.

“In the process of assembling, organizing and analyzing this data, one thing became very clear to us,” said Teresa Córdova, Director of the Great Cities Institute. “The roots of the joblessness crisis are structural and reflective of a long-term trend. We continue to see the devastating impact for generations of young people who have no opportunity to work. It is a tragedy for those young people, their households, their communities, and the city as a  whole.”

SOURCE Alternative Schools  Network

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