Work Disappearing for Black Males in Urban America Reviewed by Momizat on . By Norm Bond, During the past four decades, the job market for working age African American males has fundamentally collapsed i By Norm Bond, During the past four decades, the job market for working age African American males has fundamentally collapsed i Rating:
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Work Disappearing for Black Males in Urban America

Work Disappearing for Black Males in Urban America

By Norm Bond,

During the past four decades, the job market for working age African American males has fundamentally collapsed in urban America.

That’s the conclusion of a recent study by Dr. Marc Levine at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He looked at “employment rates” in forty of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas based on every Census taken from 1970 to 2010.

The results are shared in “Race and Male Employment in Wake of the Great Recession: Black Male Employment Rates in Milwaukee and the Nation’s Largest Metro Areas 2010“. The findings are stunning and should be a wake-up call to the entire nation, particularly community activists, policymakers, media and the Black community.

Black male employment is a crisis with no solutions on the table and faint discussion of the problem. Levine finds that in five of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, fewer than half of the working-age Black males held jobs. The US Census defines “working age” as 16-64, and “prime working years” as 25-54. In Milwaukee, the Black male employment rate in 2010 (latest year available) was over 20 points lower than the Hispanic male rate and 32.7 percentage points lower than that of white males.

Why does Levine, look at employment rates, instead of the more commonly reported unemployment rates? Today many economic experts agree that the “unemployment rate statistic” is “seriously flawed and often misleading” in gauging labor market performance.

The official unemployment rate only includes those who “do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks, and are currently available for work“. This narrow definition ignores discouraged workers and those “marginally attached” to the labor market.

It also removes the tens of thousands of Black men sitting in U.S. jails — since they are “not available”. Adds David Leonhardt of The New York Times, “It’s simply no longer the best barometer of the country’s economic health.”

Instead, the “employment-population” ratio, better known as the “employment rate” provides a truer picture. It really provides a better indicator of the extent to which the working age population in a community is actually working.

Here are some insights from the report:

  • In 2010, in only two of the largest forty metro areas (Washington, D.C. and Dallas) was the Black male employment rate higher than 60 percent.
  • In only two of the largest forty metro areas, (Portland and Detroit) was the employment rate for white males lower than 70 percent. So while Black men cannot exceed 60 percent actually working, a minimum of 70 percent of white men are actually working — in the forty largest metros in America.
  • By 2009 even though working-age Black males outnumbered Hispanic males by 55% in Milwaukee, there were more Hispanic male production workers (7,200) than Black male production workers (4,842) in the region.
  • The top-ranked Black male employment rate in Washington, DC was lower than even the lowest white male employment rate in any of the forty large metropolitan areas examined in the study.

The study points to some policies that should be considered to counter the findings including:

  • Public job creation and leveraging
  • Enhanced training and job placement
  • Drug policy reform and public health policy
  • Enhanced procurement by large businesses and large public and non-profit institutions from inner-city enterprises
  • Strategies to better integrate the inner-city economy into the regional economy

So while the nation moves into a debate around which party is going to do the best for “all of America” — where is the conversation regarding  the disappearance of work for Black men? 

Please leave your comments below.


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Comments (17)

  • Linda Harding

    Well, entrepreneurship and Black business is the key. We certainly can’t expect the government to right the wrongs. We are our only hope.

  • artforjustice

    If US banks aren’t providing Black businesses the capital they need to create jobs and White/General Market businesses have no requirements to recruit, hire and promote Black Men; where do we begin to turn around this destructive trend? Does Government have any role to play? If not, will China, Venezuela and various African countries be allowed to lend directly to Black American businesses as European and Asian banks and governments are allowed to subsidize white owned businesses?

  • Down but not out

    Reply to Lind H:
    Is “the government” some alien entity that does not belong to the people? If the people don’t reclaim the government, then the business boys on Wall Street will gladly take it. Heck, they’ll even give themselves a form of social assistance – trillions of dollars worth.

  • Larry Coleman

    This lack of work is a major contributor to drug culture’s alternative “work oppotunities”, crime, incarceration, death, violence, fear, family destruction, crumbling schools, churches. Money derived from work “answereth all things!”

  • legallybkchisis

    This is quite disheartening as an AA female with 6 AA brothers. We must change this NOW! What will the future be like for our sons?!

  • Emile

    @Linda Harding: I absolutely agreed with your statements. There is no other alternative to this situation other than seeking out opportunities for Black men by establishing niche businesses across a number of business sectors. Many Black men are very skilled and possess outstanding business acumen in many areas, regardless of the negative coverage of the mainstream media. Waiting on politicians to finally come around to “our” reality is not going to happen any time soon.

    @artforjustice: Your statements also ring true, for if this is actually a global economy as often cited, then Black businesses and entrepreneurs should waste no time in seeking alternative and more practical means of business financing. Although racism is a global reality, I doubt that it would be as bad abroad as here in the United States. The debilitating effects of the current recession is a reality shared across the globe. Building solid business relationships are all about moving forward, and not in the current fashion as exemplified by regressive American business leaders. Lastly, Black businesses and entrepreneurs should never underestimate, undervalue or marginalize their potential for successful ventures. If there are no opportunities here in the U.S., then we should be realistic by seeking and developing them abroad.

  • vetri

    Fundamental problem is high fertility rate among poor Black women.
    Having 3+ children with different men makes problem much worse.
    Proper education and husband-wife shared family finance alone can heal the problem.
    Unless above this happen, no government help makes sense.

    If you look at child poverty in Milwauke metro, Whites got just 4% because they have children only if child’s quality of life is guaranteed.
    In other hand, Black chidren poverty rate is 35%. The reason is many black women tend to have as many children as possible so that they can earn more money through welfare.

    Blacks are in trouble because of their own actions!

  • admin

    @vetri No, that’s not the fundamental problem. The fundamental issue identified is the “long term, structural decline in Black male employment”. In the Milwaukee area it decreased from 73.4% in 1970 to 44.7% by 2010; whereas for white males they enjoyed 85.9% employment in 1970 and in 2010 they relished in 77.4% employment. This doesn’t align with your assertion “Blacks are in trouble because of their own actions!” The data from the Census over 40 years also does not support your ridiculous statement that Black women want to “earn more money through welfare”. There’s a stronger correlation of “non violent drug offenses” and the mass incarceration of Black males as the new Jim Crow. This is a crisis for all America and you can be assured some Blacks are working on real solutions.

  • Binstead Gibson

    The hiring of illegal workers is playing a major part in this situation.
    Notice that many companies hire illegal workers insttead of black workers that do the job the way it is supposed to be done.
    They literally try to run out black workers, and the ones they hire they are harassed, underpaid, overworked, regulated to lesser paying jobs and lower pay.
    And many times the illegal workers do everything but work, and are defended by the employers!
    Time to take care of our own.

  • RM

    Dr. Levine is a professor out of UW-Milwaukee, not UW-Madison.

  • Simon Templar

    @vetri: Citing racist stereotypes attacking regarding Black women is wrong and racist. Your an enemy to Black women and Black people. SCRAM!

  • admin

    Thanks Mary..duly noted and corrected.

  • Linda Harding

    @artforjustice Global interaction may prove to be an exciting surprisingly lucrative option. Many merchants overseas care solely about the color of money, not skin and aren’t reluctant to do business with Black people. When the mind is not preoccupied with combatting racism it is amazing what can be accomplished.

  • Phillip

    We as a community need to learn to keep the dollar bill within the community that. We live in and support our local businesses that are owned by people from our community, grocery stores,dry cleaners, beauty supply stores, barber/beauty salons, convience stores, pharmacies, family medical practices, etc….these are all types of businesses that should be within all communities and can sustain success within the neighborhoods that conduct business. Stop allowing people who dont live in your community make money from you but not support or live amongst you.

  • Devin Robinson

    This article was right on time! Websites like these bring relief to the ailments blacks encounter on a daily basis by providing the truth that we would often never know. As far as black women having babies to get more money from government? That’s a ridiculous remark. Poor people have a right to have babies like everyone else. What you are mentioning is a symptom/effect, not the problem/cause. The men who leave the mothers behind to raise these babies have just as much responsibility. So don’t blame the mothers. It is a deeper issue that leads to the misfortune of babies with one mother. And let’s not turn a blind eye, much of oppression of blacks lie in our new Jim Crow (unemployment, incarceration, illiteracy-bad school conditions) towards the black community.

  • Duane Portee

    Research and read Dr. Claud Anderson’s Powernomics.

  • Enoch Mubarak


    African Americans have given up on reading, and African American politicians dare to support a sitting black U.S. president out of fear of being called a ni@#er lover by white politicians.

    The New York Times refers to Barack Obama as the last black politician. White journalist asks each other out loud, “What’s going with progression, evolution and rehabilitation in the black community”?

    The reply is nothing happening in the black community. There is no movement of progression, evolution and rehabilitation in the black community.

    Unless a African American is speaking out loud complaining about the first black president then it is like Christmas Eve in the black community whereas….

    “all throughout the house, no creatures were stirring, not even a mouse. The black folks cowered on the plantation with despair hoping soon that the white people will be there.”

    By and by someone told the African Americans that reading books is the way to freedom, prosperity, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but the African Americans replied from their actions that…

    ”If waiting for the white people to come is wrong then I don’t want to be right because ain’t no book gonna save me!”

    …And so the white people came

    White people came and joined the African Americans in their civil rights struggle. White people did not have to support the African American struggle but they had respect for blacks that had the courage to stand up for the ideals, symbolism and dignity of the Red, Green and Black flag.

    White people came to Africa to help with the black struggle. White people came into the inner city neighborhoods and schools to help teach African American children.

    The white people came and built housing to keep African Americans in their communities. The white people came and built banks so that African Americans can save money ………but the African Americans will have none of it.

    Instead of civil rights, schools, Affordable housing, bank loans and libraries African Americans want President Obama to find or create for them a job or opportunity. African Americans want unlimited unemployment extensions and affordable housing only in white areas.

    African Americans want banks to make it easy and affordable through no interest charity loans to be able to shop in the white areas and eat in white restaurants.

    African Americas protest and keep their children out of African American schools because they want to raise and educate their children alongside white people’s children.

    It is not enough that the white people came into the African American inner city neighborhoods and areas bringing with them the avenues of opportunity for African Americans to do for self.

    Doing for self means supporting their own black businesses and reading how to books. African Americans treat reading books like weapons of mass destruction and supporting black business is a waste of time because African Americans don’t read enough to know the infinite benefits of supporting their own enterprises.

    ….so the African Americans wait for the white people to come again.

    The white people came again but this time they showed up with high powered rifles to shoot and kill any black person trying to escape uptown during the Katrina hurricane.

    The white people came on cruise ships to Haiti during the earthquake to swim, have sex, sip wine, eat caviar and drink champagne from their lavish cruise ships as they watched, pointed and rejoiced at the black dead bodies laying crushed, decapitated, mangled and twisted in the streets of Haiti.

    The white people came back into the inner city neighborhoods and areas to shut down your schools, cut off your welfare and suspend private funding

    The white people came and left taking with them their magnanimous gestures of African American opportunities and on the way out they let the Spanish players in.

    … and the Spanish players don’t take prisoners.

    The Spanish players as of this writing have the African Americans surrounded and engulfed as they cut off and deplete the African Americans residual resources of land, food and water.

    The African Americans sit idly by on the 21st century plantation watching their own destruction, demise, elimination, defeat and extinction hoping in their hearts that it will only happen to the other African American family and not them.

    When African Americans are asked about their condition and as long as African Americans refuse to open up and read a book then..….

    ….It is all Barack Obama’s fault.

    Reading is your only way to freedom and Undercover Smart is the book YOU MUST read.

    Read Undercover Smart and the life you save will be your own.

    Sincerely, Enoch Mubarak
    President/CEO Mubarak Inter-prizes

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