A recent study revealed that not only do Black men still have the highest unemployment rates in the United States, but it’s costing Black communities billions of dollars a year, according to the Atlantic Black Star.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research published its findings earlier this month, which shows an employment gap of about 1.4 million jobs between Black men and their Asian, Hispanic, and white counterparts. Black men are missing out on thousands of jobs due to higher rates of incarceration, discrimination, and even death, researchers say.
“Black people need to take this report and take it to their elected official and say ‘You need to do more because you don’t fully realize how big this problem is,’” Algernon Austin, the author of the study, told Finurah. “I’m hoping that this work serves to inspire people, and, frankly, particularly Black men.”
Austin looked at unemployment data from 2014, but the takeaways can be applied to 2021 and beyond. He argues that if Black neighborhoods saw more income coming in from Black working men, they could see lower crime rates, small businesses surviving longer, and higher educational attainment among children.
On top of this, Black communities potentially lost $50 billion in income due to these obstacles, according to Austin’s findings.
“If we can get that $50 billion in, not only are people’s lives made better today, but the next generation is going to be better off,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the gap in economic opportunities between Black people and their white counterparts, as well. Even though Black unemployment has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels (6 to 7%) as of November 2021, Black men still retain the highest unemployment, according to data from the Congressional Research Service.
So, what are some solutions to this problem?
Austin suggests federal government-funded jobs programs that can reach Black populations. These programs could also target “economically depressed” areas like Detroit and Washington D.C.
“It can be useful to think about them as depressed because then we should be putting in place tools we used during the Great Depression to solve the joblessness problem,” the researcher explains.
Economist Harry Holzer says introducing Black men to work at a younger age, reducing the incarceration rate, putting more money into pre-kindergarten programs in Black neighborhoods, and raising the federal minimum wage could also reduce the job gap.
You can read more about CEPR’s report here.