Who is to Blame for Black Unemployment?
9 months ago
The black unemployment twice that of whites. Why is it so high?
For the past year and a half, Kerryanne Mayers and her son Zaire have been living in a shelter in the Bronx. Mayers, 28, has been unemployed since 2009. In 2008, she enrolled in a dental assistant course hoping to find a job to support herself and her then infant son. But the school was a sham, and Mayers never found a job because she had not been properly trained. She has worked seasonal jobs, making minimum wage cleaning New York City parks, but was ultimately forced into the shelter system because she cannot pay rent on the $80 a week she receives in unemployment benefits. Though, in the past few months, she has sent out dozens of resumes each week, she cannot find work.
“It’s a little frustrating. It’s tiring,” says Mayers, of her inability to find a job. “It makes you emotionally tired when you have to depend on help.”
One of the roadblocks President Barack Obama faces for reelection is unemployment. The unemployment rate, announced Friday, is high—8.1 percent for the general population, and 14.1 percent for African Americans. The last time a Democratic incumbent faced a Republican challenger with black unemployment this high was when Jimmy Carter faced off against Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter lost.
Black unemployment has always been roughly double that of white unemployment, regardless of the economic climate.
“Sadly, this is not a new problem,” says Algernon Austin, director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute. “The black unemployment rate ranges from bad to abysmal. Right now we are closer to the abysmal range.”
But, though the gap between white and black unemployment figures has always been large, President Obama has been held more to task over the black unemployment rate than his predecessors, and has been criticized by many black leaders for not doing enough to help African Americans find jobs.
A year ago, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told Politico: “There are roughly 3 million African Americans out of work today, a number nearly equal to the entire population of Iowa. I would suggest that if the entire population of Iowa, a key state on the electoral map and a place that served as a stop on the president’s jobs bus tour, were unemployed, they would be mentioned in the president’s speech and be the beneficiary of targeted public policy.”