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Booming 1990s Left Black Men Behind

Detailed Analyses Offer Guidance for Economic and Social Policies

Document date: January 24, 2006
Released online: January 24, 2006

Contact: Stu Kantor, (202) 261-5283, skantor@ui.urban.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2006—A new book from the Urban Institute Press presents national experts' analysis of how and why the economic boom of the 1990s eluded young black men and suggests policies to improve their economic and social circumstances.

Black Males Left Behind, the eleven-chapter volume edited by Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia University, rivets much-needed attention on a population bypassed by much of the last decade's economic successes and welfare overhaul.

"In the wake of welfare reform, the detachment of unskilled young black men from work and family is America's most significant social problem. Black Males Left Behind is an indispensable introduction to this dilemma," remarks Lawrence M. Mead, professor of politics at New York University.

During the 1990s, the employment rate of 16- to 24-year-old black men with a high school education or less fell from its peak during the 1980s economic expansion. In addition, their labor force participation continued the decline of the 1980s, sliding from 1.03 million in 1979 to 898,000 in 2001 and coinciding with rapid growth in the number who were incarcerated or on parole or probation.

"Young men are an especially important subgroup of the U.S. population," says Mincy, the Maurice V. Russell Professor of Social Welfare Policy and Social Work Practice at Columbia University's School of Social Work. "The critical decisions they make about work, schooling, vocational training, fertility, and family formation will have lasting implications for themselves, their families, and their communities."

A Blueprint for Policy

Black Males Left Behind showcases the research of 17 leading scholars and gives policymakers an essential starting point and reference for addressing the complex problems of young black men with limited education.

  • Ronald B. Mincy, Charles E. Lewis Jr., and Wen-Jui Han describe this group's demographic characteristics (as well as those of their white and Hispanic counterparts), including their labor force participation, wages, educational attainment, marriage rate, family structure, poverty rate, and geographical concentration.
  • Harry J. Holzer and the late Paul Offner reveal disturbing trends in employment outcomes of young black men between 1979 and 2000.
  • William M. Rodgers III forecasts the labor market prospects of less-educated Americans, noting that young black men are hardest hit when the economy is weak.
  • Holzer, Steven Raphael, and Michael A. Stoll examine how employers' perceptions of crime and incarceration affect black men's employment prospects.
  • Rebecca M. Blank and Jonah Gelbach assess whether less-educated women crowded less-educated men out of the labor market.
  • John A. Foster-Bey Jr. shows how a mismatch between the location of jobs and residences interfered with men's labor force participation during the 1990s boom.
  • Alford A. Young Jr. presents results from a survey of low-income black men that shows their desire for more work opportunities and job-training programs.
  • Demetra Smith Nightingale and Elaine Sorensen evaluate the availability and use of workforce development programs and find that black men were less likely to receive job-placement help and other services leading to higher paying jobs.
  • Wendell Primus suggests ways to improve public policies to increase the income and employment of low-income fathers who do not live with their children.
  • Ron Haskins considers policies that could advance disadvantaged fathers, especially young black fathers contending with low education and employment levels, high incarceration and divorce rates, and high rates of parenthood outside of marriage.
  • Hillard Pouncy reflects on what it will take to continue an effective national policy conversation about less-educated young men.

"This book gives us a clear, detailed look at a growing crisis in black America. It's a critical first step toward helping less-educated young black men get on track so they can fulfill their promise. If we don't solve this problem, it will imperil not only African Americans, but all Americans," says Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc.

Black Males Left Behind, edited by Ronald B. Mincy, is available from the Urban Institute Press for $29.50 (344 pages, ISBN 0-87766-727-6). Order online at www.uipress.org, call 202-261-5687, or dial 1-877-847-7377 toll-free.

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation.

Topics/Tags: | Education | Employment | Poverty, Assets and Safety Net | Race/Ethnicity/Gender

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