I just returned from the big annual meeting of economists (this time in Philly), at which we had a panel on the Job Guarantee. One of the papers on our panel was by William (Sandy) Darity and Darrick Hamilton, which demonstrated how imperative it is to implement the JG to reduce hiring discrimination in the labor market. Darrick (who presented the paper) pointed out that official unemployment rates for black Americans is chronically twice as high as that for whites; by conventional views of what constitutes Great Depression levels of unemployment, black Americans are in a Great Depression and are always suffering from at least recession levels of unemployment.
Darrick pointed out that even in good times, blacks with some college education have unemployment rates higher than white high school drop-outs, and even as high as whites who’ve been incarcerated. Sandy has supported the Job Guarantee since the earliest days—he was on the first panel we ever organized on the JG (back when we were calling it Public Service Employment). While the JG will not eliminate racial discrimination in the USA, it will go a long way in helping to provide a real opportunity.
The highest unemployment rates are among the young. As Sandy says, black teen high school dropouts have a 95 percent joblessness rate. You read that right. The JG would give them an alternative path to gainful employment.
Some years ago, Marc-André Pigeon and I did a study of joblessness. We found that during the Clinton boom years (when the overall unemployment rate finally reached the lows that were last achieved in the Johnson years), of the 12 million jobs created only 700,000 of them went to workers who had not attended college. We found that even with the relatively robust labor markets of the Clinton boom, “Well over half of noninstitutionalized high school dropouts remain out of the labor force, compared with only a quarter of those who attended college. If the current expansion raises the employment rate for high school dropouts by only about 3 percentage points over a period of 6 years, by simple extrapolation, the expansion would have to continue for another 78 years before the gap could be closed.” YEP. If we could maintain an economic boom for 78 more years, we could get the unemployment rate down across all the groups. That’s how boomy our economy needs to be to generate jobs for workers at the bottom of the queue.
(It won’t happen. We’d get very high inflation and asset bubbles before we boomed for even a decade. See our other article that looks in depth at those who are officially “out of the labor force” but who could be brought in if jobs were available. We estimated there were probably around 26 million potentially employable people left behind. In other work we looked at incarceration rates and compared the probabilities of employment rates and incarceration rates among prime age males across race and level of educational attainment. The results were horrific; I’ll report on that some time.)
Here are three recent, interesting, pieces on the JG proposal, two by Sandy Darity and one by Jesse Myerson at Rolling Stone: continue reading…