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Black Teenage Males Crushed by Unemployment
Sitting in an empty classroom at the YouthBuild Charter School in Washington, D.C., Andre Johnson, 18, talks about his fruitless job search.
"I apply for jobs every day," he says. "And usually I do it online, 'cause I know before when I used to go in the stores, they used to look at me actually different and weird, and they say, 'Oh we don't have no applications or nothing,' and I never believed them."
Academics believe fewer than 14 in 100 young black men actually have jobs. Washington, D.C., has the worst teen employment rate in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A Disturbing Trend
Experts point to several reasons for the disparity. Allison Lee is a job placement specialist at YouthBuild, which helps teens complete their GEDs, gain job training and land internships and employment. She says she has seen discrimination from hiring managers firsthand.
"They have told me on the phone or to my face that they are hiring," she says. "And when I send a student in by himself who's a young black male, they're told, 'No, we're not hiring.'"
Discrimination alone doesn't explain the entire problem. There are other reasons, like the fact that few African-Americans work in hiring offices. Studies show that when more blacks are in positions to hire new employees, more blacks get hired.
Also, few networks exist in the young men's communities to help them get jobs. Fewer of their parents, family and friends have jobs, so fewer connections are there to help them find work. It all sets up a disturbing trend.
Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute says the job prospects for white, adult felons are higher than those for black male teenagers without any criminal record.
In addition, older workers who have been laid-off from higher paying jobs are now taking the entry-level jobs many black teens apply for. In fact, more people 55 and older are working in this recession than were before.
Lingering Disparities, Long-Term Effects
It's not just low-income households that are hurting.
Andrew Sum of with the Center for Labor Market Studies found that upper-middle-class black teenagers are less likely to be employed than low-income white teenagers.
Among black teens in households making between $100,000 and $150,000 a year, only 28 in 100 have jobs. Of white, non-Hispanic teens in households making less than $20,000 a year, 37 out of 100 have jobs. Generally, as family income increases, the rate of teen employment for those households rises. But even this trend can't erase the lingering disparities in employment for black teenagers."
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