“#BlackLivesMatter”?: Only about 5% of black teen male dropouts from poor families are employed, according to this 2013 interview with economist Andrew Sum. That doesn’t mean a 95% unemployment rate — many aren’t in the labor market all. Still. Sean McElwee of Demos calls it “one of the most viscerally jarring statistics I’ve ever read.”
Teenage employment used to be higher, Sum notes. Why did it collapse? One reason, he says, is that after the 2001 recession, the jobs that teenagers had once gotten instead went to “older workers & immgrants.” Less skilled, younger, and black workers are typically the people most adversely affected by the arrival of lower-skilled immigrants — this is just a pointed example of that general rule of thumb. It’s simply astounding that a president of Obama’s declared sympathies would, when faced with this situation, want more immigration to fill the jobs that poor black teenagers used to get. What’s he going to tell them? ‘Go back to school’?** School hasn’t helped them, and the payoffs from school are far off in the future. A job would have an immediate payoff. And work itself is socializing. It can succeed where public schools fail. In a tight labor market, employers would have to compete to figure out how to bring marginal workers into the mainstream economy.
I would bet on market ingenuity over public schools. But first, the easy path — importing desperate hard-working Third Worlders to fill employer demand — has to be closed off, at least temporarily. …
** — That’s basically what he tells workers who lose their jobs due to trade (who also tend to be less skilled). “[W]e’ve got to provide help to transition, and to re-tool and adapt …” It’s easier to say that to people who’ve been in the work force. It’s less likely to be effective advice for teenage dropouts who’ve never been part of the mainstream economy. How do you “re-tool” when you haven’t tooled in the first place? Wouldn’t it be good to have a decent supply of jobs that don’t require “tooling” at all?