Thursday, September 2, 2010

Black Youth Unemployment: Urban Institute Research and an Op-Ed

Marla McDaniel, a colleague of mine here at the Urban Institute, shared a labor day op-ed that she wrote with Margaret Simms (another Institute researcher) on the different labor market experiences of black youth and white youth. The op-ed is based on research that Marla and I have been doing for the last two years or so with the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We have two short fact sheets out right now on the transition to adulthood for (1.) low-income black youth, and (2.) youth from low-income working families (as opposed to low-income families where there is little or no attachment to a job). She and I have both presented these findings in several professional conferences, and we're currently working on a journal article (well - she's doing most of the leg work for that right now - I haven't touched that for a while).

Margaret Simms heads our Low-Income Working Families project at the Urban Institute, which conducts research on families that have strong connections to the labor market but are still struggling with poverty. She's a brilliant economist, with a lot of experience in social insurance programs (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, worker's comp), and poverty research. Both Margaret and Marla spoke at length on our research findings at this Urban Institute event back in June. Also speaking on this panel is Harry Holzer (Georgetown University, The Urban Institute) who is one of the foremost experts on black youth unemployment, and youth unemployment in general.

It's worth reading through this stuff. Disadvantages faced by black youth are well known, but we provide a lot of counter-intuitive details here. We also talk a lot about the role of connecting to the labor market early in sustaining strong connections to the labor market. We don't put it in these terms directly, but this speaks to the relationship between cyclical and structural unemployment that has gotten a lot of discussion lately. Long story short: unemployment is state-dependent and long spells of unemployment destroy human capital.

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