Thursday, November 18, 2010

SURPRISE!!: Black College Grads Struggle to Find Employment in Today's Economy

I've been communicating with the good folks at the Center for Community Alternatives via one of the producers at National Geographic Television, on the results of a recent study, which investigates the impact criminal background checks have on minority college applicants. I bet you can guess how that turns out, right?

More to come after I secure an interview with the Executive Director of the program. However, somewhat ironic considering my interview and subsequent piece involves pre-college minority youth, is the following from my people over at, which discusses life for minority college grads post-graduation.

A Generation of Black Youth is Losing its Future in the Jobs Crisis:

Recently, in speaking with my man Folk, who contributes to this site and blogs at Black Folks Don't Swim, he said something interesting that rings true today more than ever. He said that the only way black folks can make it and remain competitive in the job market, is to continually educate ourselves in our fields of expertise.

My man was right, and given our dismal economy, I'm willing to bet that many are doing just that in an effort to remain competitive in an already gnat-booty tight job market given today's economy. It's bad enough that "regular" folks are having a hard time finding employment. Add to that the countless numbers of black grads.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, from July 2007 through 2010, blacks between the ages of 16-24, the unemployment rate has been 33.4 percent. And Naima Ramos-Chapman's article at colorlines had this and much more to say about the plight of unemployed youth in this the worst modern economic downturn:
Black youth have the highest jobless rate among all races and ethnicities, and that rate is still rising. In the past year, while other youth jobless rates have flat-lined, blacks and Asians have continued to trend upward. And existing racial disparities have widened across the board since the recession began. As of July 2010, while white youth unemployment rate was 16.2 percent, the jobless rates for black youth was double: A whopping 33.4 percent.

Many things drive that alarming statistic. There’s the fact that African Americans as a whole are feeling the brunt of the recession more severely than other demographics. And then there’s the long list of other inequities that black youth face and that, in turn, make employment more difficult even in a good market: the high drop out rates and the uniquely aggressive policing of black neighborhoods, to name two.

But employment opportunities appear to be sparse even for black youth who have what it should take to get a foot in the door. Among youth with bachelor’s degrees, the 2:1 gap between the black and white unemployment rates remains the same. Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute explains:
For the first half of this year, blacks who are under 25 who have a college degree have an unemployment rate of 15.4 percent; whites in that same group have unemployment of 7.9 percent. We are seeing basically a 2:1 disparity. Recent black college grads … have the highest rate of high student loan debt. So that’s another way blacks, even young black college grads, are being hit from both sides. They are less likely to get a job and more likely to have a debt load.
I spent the fall speaking with my jobless peers at job fairs and, as is plain in the video above, frustration with these realities is becoming a definitive part of our generational experience. Austin warns it also will impact generations above and below us, as our dependence lessens our parents’ wealth and our debt sets our children behind.  “The debt is negative wealth so they are starting off well behind,” says Austin of the jobless college grads. “It’s another real problem facing blacks, and blacks whom people may assume—because they have a college degree—are doing well.”

That’s likely to make a bad thing worse. When the recession began, black families held a dime of wealth for every dollar held by white families; Latino families had 12 cents of wealth compared to that dollar.

Higher educational attainment is too often conflated with middle class status. Although this may be the case for those who can afford to put their children through college, it often cannot be said of many black college students. (source: colorlines)
My oldest daughter is in her last year of high school, and will be going to college next year. She will be closely followed along the college path by the second oldest the following year. My youngest brother who currently attends North Carolina A&T, will be graduating next year, as will my sister-in-law from Tennessee State. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that my one and only sister (the baby of the family) is a freshman at Rutgers.

I don't know about your family, but to me and mine, this is a pretty important yet dire forecast for our youth. The good news is that through the efforts of the Obama administration, steps have been taken to make college more affordable - something that will positively impact minority you from lower-income families. The trick now, is in getting our economy back on track, so minority youth can at least see light at the end of the tunnel.

Seriously, having a college degree and $50,000 in debt while working at a call-center doesn't cut it. Yes education is and always will be the great equalizer for people of color; and I wouldn't dare suggest differently. But one has to wonder just how long must we suffer even as we attempt to make significant advances for ourselves. Oh well, so much for that "merit argument" often used in defiance of Affirmative Action policies.


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