African-American Men Worst Affected in Economic Meltdown

by Gopalan on  March 17, 2009 at 10:30 AM General Health News
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African-American Men Worst Affected in Economic Meltdown
Some are always more equal. So also some are more affected in any crisis. Like the African-American men. More of them are losing their jobs in the US than ever before since the Second World War.

Notwithstanding the coronation of Barack Obama as the first black President of the country, blacks seem worst hurt by the ongoing economic downturn. Employment among them has fallen 7.8 percent since November of 2007, according to a report by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

Federal data indicate all demographic groups have been affected. The number of men looking for full-time work has nearly doubled in the last year, regardless of race or ethnicity, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

But the Northeastern study concludes that during the past 15 months, "the relative decline in black male employment was considerably higher than that of their male counterparts in the other three race-ethnic groups" - Asians, Hispanics, and whites.

The employment rate among African-American men aged 20 to 24 is now just 51 percent, as opposed to 68 percent during the late 1990s. For African-American teens, it's just 14 percent.

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies and an author of the report, thinks this is a disturbing development, giving the lie to the much-talked about  evolution of the US a cultural melting pot, cutting across ethnic barriers.

Unemployed black men like Anthony Gilmore aren't surprised by the findings. Laid off five months ago from a call center, Mr. Gilmore recently interviewed for a job detailing cars. A Hispanic man got the job.

The perception among many black men like Gilmore is that the economy has merely laid bare the historic prejudices that still exist, write Patrik Jonsson  and Yvonne Zipp in Christian Science Monitor. 

"There's still very much a system that really is designed to keep people at a disadvantage," said Anthony Gilmore while waiting Friday outside an Atlanta unemployment office.

There is also another angle of assertion. Especially in the South, black men often pay a price for demanding workplace rights gained in the Civil Rights movement - demands for days off and being able to say no to overtime, for example. Hispanic workers, particularly, aren't as likely to claim those rights, making them easier hires, says Professor Peter Rachleff, a labour historian.

Ironically, black women have faced no net job losses, for they are twice as likely as black men to go to college. By contrast, black men are disproportionately employed in those blue-collar jobs that have been most highly affected - think third shifts at rural manufacturing plants.

All the job loss has been among blue-collar jobs - construction, manufacturing, and retail.

These are the jobs black men have long sought, settling for high-school diplomas in order to get these relatively well paid posts, suggests Terry Getter, an unemployed accountant. But they are now feeling the consequences of not continuing their education.

The current trends only serve to make the situation more precarious in a community already beset by high incarceration rates and low graduation numbers.

Moreover, it puts renewed focus on the cultural and economic stereotypes of black women and men - mythologies and realities about the black family that remain challenging for the country, and Washington, to address.

The job-loss figures come at a time when many lower-income black homeowners are already at risk of foreclosure. "They have zero opportunity to refinance or borrow in any way to get over the rough patch of unemployment," writes Tom Hertz, a labor economist, in an e-mail.

As the black women seem to be faring better, the onus for the community's well-being is  falling primarily on them, adding more burdens to a group that, historically, has upheld the black family, says Sheri Parks, author of the upcoming book "Fierce Angels" about the role of strong black women in American culture.

Part of the reason, she says, is that black communities have historically protected young men and expected more of young women, particularly when it comes to schooling. "If you're a black woman, you don't have to convince someone that you're strong and nurturing and able to do almost anything - it's almost a brand," says Ms. Parks. "The prevalent image of a black man is what we call hyper-masculine and often idealized, but not necessarily in the workplace."

Source: Medindia

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