Report finds high rates of unemployment among city’s Black youth

Staff Writer

A significant proportion of Chicago’s Black youth are both unemployed and out of school, according to a study presented on Monday, Jan. 25, at the Chicago Urban League’s (CUL) fifth annual hearing on youth unemployment.

The report, commissioned by the Alternative School Network and carried out by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, shows that 47 percent of 20- to 24-year-old Black men in Chicago were neither working nor in school in 2014.

Chicago’s Black unemployment rate exceeds that of other major U.S. cities such as New York and Los Angeles. According to the report, nearly 60 percent of Black 20- to 24-year-old men in Chicago were out of work in 2014. That’s compared with 49 percent in New York City and 48 percent in Los Angeles.

Chicago’s white 20- to 24-year-old men saw an unemployment rate of 32 percent in 2014.

The UIC study also looks at Chicago’s neighborhood unemployment rates. In 2014, 53 percent of Hyde Parkers aged 20-24 were out of work. That number goes up to 64 percent in Woodlawn and nearly 70 percent in Washington Park.

Andrew Wells, CUL’s Director of Workforce Development, said that the burden of the unemployment crisis among Black youth rests partly on the city of Chicago.

“What we see is youth that are disconnected from economic opportunities,” Wells said. “I think the city should look at their policies on how they deal with youth and economic development.”

Kelly Hallberg, Scientific Director at the University of Chicago’s (U. of C.) Crime Lab, spoke at Monday’s CUL hearing about the university’s work in linking joblessness to violent crime.

In 2012, the U. of C.’s Crime Lab found a 43 percent reduction in violent crime arrests for youth who were placed in summer part-time jobs. This group of over 600 employed youth was compared with a control group of kids who did not secure summer jobs.

“The report that we presented shows the importance of jobs,” Hallberg said. “We’re talking about an eight week period in the summer giving someone a job, and even that made a significance difference.”

What’s more, Hallberg said, is that after the summer job program ended, those kids who had been employed continued to show positive results up to 18 months later.

“The connections between jobs and decreases in violent crime are clear,” Hallberg said.

She said that a plan for economic engagement is necessary to address the city’s crime woes.