William Darity: Ninety-five percent joblessness for teen black male dropouts? That estimate, from Northeastern University’s Andrew Sum, borders on the fantastic as an indictment of the American labor market.
Add to Sum’s damning statistic the finding that blacks with some college education or an associate’s degree experienced higher unemployment than whites who had dropped out of high school, and you can see this racial gap in unemployment is a profound index of the degree of discrimination in American labor markets.
Where there’s unemployment, there’s imprisonment. Male high school drop-outs of all races are nearly 50 times as likely to be imprisoned as their peers of the same age who have a college degree. But in a 2009 study, Sum’s Center for Labor Studies at Northeastern found that almost one quarter of all young black men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison or juvenile justice institutions. These conditions should be an automatic call to arms for dramatic social change to create substantive work opportunities for all of these young men.