Urban Labor Markets and Young Black Men: A Literature Review

By Skinner, Curtis | Journal of Economic Issues, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Urban Labor Markets and Young Black Men: A Literature Review


Skinner, Curtis, Journal of Economic Issues


Astonishingly high rates of black male joblessness characterize large northeastern cities in the United States today. Although widespread idleness among working-age men has long been a feature of ghetto life [Orfield 1992], the problem has worsened dramatically over the past three decades, especially for young men in the 18 to 24-year-old age group. In 1964, some 12 percent of this cohort was jobless - that is, neither in school, employed, nor participating in the formal, legal labor market; by 1985, the proportion had risen to a stunning 22 percent [Jencks 1991; U.S. Department of Labor 1991], where it remains. While less constrained by child-care obligations, young black men only marginally surpassed young black women in their labor market participation, and their jobless rate was more than double that of urban white men in their age group. Urbanists link an array of social ills, among them rising crime rates and the burgeoning number of female-headed poverty households, to this joblessness among young men, and a substantial literature analyzing the phenomenon and proposing policy solutions across a broad ideological spectrum has appeared in recent years.

Virtually all observers agree that the ongoing, structural transformation of the U.S. economy - from a relatively closed system with a substantial number of well-paid, unionized manufacturing jobs requiring little formal education to a transnational mode of production characterized domestically by weakened unions, highly automated manufacturing, and growing educational and training requirements for well-paid service sector jobs - has not helped employment prospects for urban black men, who on average tend to be much more poorly educated than their white urban counterparts [Kasarda 1983]. Related to this "skills mismatch" hypothesis is the somewhat more contentious notion of a "spatial mismatch," whereby central city blacks confront informational, transportation, and bias hurdles that prevent them from filling the entry-level service and manufacturing job openings that are now concentrated in the suburbs and nonmetropolitan areas. William Julius Wilson's influential study of inner city poverty, The Truly Disadvantaged [1987], emphasized both mismatches and helped focus current research on these issues. Simple demographics also offer a readily accepted, partial explanation for the deteriorating employment position of young black central city men in the 1970s and 1980s: the large baby-boom cohort, magnified by a central city population that tends to be younger than average, drove a new wedge between the demand and supply of entry-level jobs.

More controversial explanations for black male joblessness include the culture-of-poverty/welfare-dependency thesis, fashionable during the Reagan administration years, which posits that a generation of living on the Great Society dole has eroded initiative, self-reliance, and the work ethic among inner-city blacks and spawned a self-perpetuating cycle of dysfunctional behavior and poverty. Charles Murray [1984] unfurled this banner in his 1984 book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, and Lawrence Mead [1986; 1992] has recently offered a more nuanced and sophisticated version of the position. As Wilson and others have noted, the welfare dependency thesis gibes with the beliefs many Americans seem to hold about the inner-city poor. The implication is that some sorts of jobs-menial, minimum-wage ones, perhaps - are in fact available for young black men, and that these are being refused in favor of government benefits (often received indirectly through mothers or girlfriends) and/or illegal sources of income. A form of shock therapy is required to overturn these ingrained culture of poverty habits and values: the prescriptions range from Murray's wholesale dismantling of income maintenance programs to various forms of workfare.

Direct racial discrimination by employers is another disputed explanation for black men's employment plight. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Urban Labor Markets and Young Black Men: A Literature Review
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.