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William Julius Wilson. “Jobless Poverty”. Topic. Focuses on poor, segregated urban neighborhoods in which a majority of the adults are either unemployed or have dropped out of the labor force altogether.

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william julius wilson

William Julius Wilson

“Jobless Poverty”

  • Focuses on poor, segregated urban neighborhoods in which a majority of the adults are either unemployed or have dropped out of the labor force altogether
Wilson based his article on research studies conducted in Chicago between 1986 and 1993 from a random survey of 2,500 poor and non-poor African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians. There were also 179 employers from Chicago that were interviewed to reflect employer attitudes.
In the 1950s, the urban black population was poor, but most had access to jobs and were working.
  • In the 1990s most adults in many inner-city ghettos were not working.
    • In 1990, the three predominantly black neighborhoods in Chicago had only 4 out of 10 working, 1 out of 4 working, and 1 of 3 working.
    • This is compared to the 1950s, when these neighborhoods typically had 69% of the population working.
  • Wilson used a scale called the employment-to-population ratio – the percentage of adults aged 16+ who are working to calculate these statistics.
definition of joblessness
Definition of joblessness
  • “Jobless poverty” does not only refer to official unemployment.
  • The official labor force – those who are actively looking for work
    • doesn’t include those who are outside of the labor market
  • Joblessness doesn’t mean non-work; Wilson says that in the jobless ghettos, people may still hold jobs such as housekeeper or work in illegal economies such as drug dealing. Joblessness is just the lack of formal work.
formal work
“Formal work”
  • Wilson characterizes work in the formal economy (normal work) as having characteristics like
    • regularity and consistency in schedules and hours,
    • a formalization of schedules,
    • and high discipline.
  • He argues that the drug industry is disciplined; however, most illegal economies are not governed by discipline, regularity, and stability.
effect of joblessness on routine and discipline
Effect of joblessness on routine and discipline
  • -lack of coherent organization of the present
      • a system of concrete expectations and goals
  • - regular employment provides the anchor for spatial and temporal aspects of daily life.
    • If missing, life or family life become less coherent. –
    • Long-term unemployment hinders rational daily planning, which is necessary for adaption in industrial economies.
  • -lack of a sense of hierarchy and order
explanation of growth of jobless ghettos
Explanation of growth of jobless ghettos
  • overemphasis on racial factors
  • decreasing demand for low-skilled labor
      • – inner ghetto blacks are mostly unskilled laborers.
  • suburbanization of jobs
    • most ghetto residents can’t afford a car so they have to take public transport, making it difficult to get a job in the suburbs.
  • social deterioration of ghetto neighborhoods
    • there are few basic neighborhood institutions like churches, community centers, libraries, clubs, etc. which makes crime, prostitution, drug-dealing, and gang formations more common.
  • - the social interaction does not typical involve academic success, pro-social behavior, employment in the formal labor market, etc.
effect of joblessness on marriage and family
Effect of joblessness on marriage and family
  • The foundation for stable relationships become weaker over time
  • Unwed relationships are more common than marriage

-more broken unions

-out of wedlock pregnancies

-more separation and divorce

  • Many inner-city residents have negative outlooks toward marriage, influenced by persistent joblessness
negative employer attitudes
Negative employer attitudes
  • Chicagoan employers see inner-city blacks as less desirable as workers, so they are less likely to hire them.
  • One said, “they probably would be frequently unable to get to work … I probably would watch him more carefully even if it wasn’t fair than I would with someone else … even though I know that he might work harder than someone else, I would have trouble accepting that at the beginning.”
employers cont
Employers (cont)
  • Inner-city blacks use street-talk and lack formal English skills.
    • Ex) say salesmens instead of salesmen
    • can’t read or write much, low literacy, lower opportunities
  • 74% white employers expressed negative views of inner-city blacks but 80% of blacks did the same thing.
employers cont12
Employers (cont)
  • Inner-city blacks lacking in hard skills and soft skills
  • Hard skills – literacy, numerical ability, basic mechanical ability
  • Soft skills – personalities suitable for work environments, good grooming, group-oriented work behaviors
    • Many inner-city black children grow up avoiding eye-contact with strangers and develop a tough demeanor when interacting with others on the street, both of which are undesirable to employers.
statistical discrimination
Statistical discrimination
  • -employers make assumptions about inner-city black workers in general and make decisions based on those assumptions before they systematically review an applicant.
  • this implies that many inner-city black applicants are never given the chance to prove their qualifications on an individual level.
stat discrim cont
Stat discrim (cont)
  • a matter of race both directly and indirectly.
  • Directly – the selective recruitment patterns screen out more blacks than Hispanic or whites from the same backgrounds.
  • Indirectly – denied work on the basis of objective and thorough evaluations of their qualifications
    • their hard and soft skills don’t match the need of their labor market
public policy dilemmas
Public policy dilemmas
  • The government should become an “employer-of-last-resort”
  • firms in private sectors cannot/refuse to hire low-skilled adults that are willing to take minimum wage pay. This is a crisis so the government should respond
the need for action
The need for action
  • West Virginia has provided community service jobs to recipients of welfare
  • Wisconsin has done for same for its depressed areas
  • They need to make plans that allow communities to make adequate incomes
  • As workers have more experience, more employers would be willing to hire them, and the workers would have references to back them up.
  • This would allow children to grow up in a more work-oriented environment and have more desirable hard and soft skills for their future.