Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working, a staggering statistic in a bleak new youth unemployment report that shows Chicago to be far worse off than its big-city peers.
To 24-year-old Johnathan Allen, that’s no surprise.
“It’s right there in your face, you don’t need statistics,” Allen said as he testified before a room full of lawmakers and public officials Monday at an annual hearing about youth unemployment, where the report was presented. He encouraged everyone to walk down the street and witness how joblessness devastates communities.
“Speaking about it every year ain’t doing it,” he said.
Forty-seven percent of 20- to 24-year-old black men in Chicago, and 44 percent in Illinois, were out of school and out of work in 2014, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic men and 10 percent of white men in the same age group, according to the report from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute.
The numbers for black men are far worse in Chicago and Illinois than elsewhere in the country. In Los Angeles and New York City, 31 percent of black 20- to 24-year-old men were out of school and out of work, in line with the national average of 32 percent.
While declines in youth employment across all races have raised concerns for a number of years, the new report puts into stark focus the connection between unemployment and Chicago’s racially segregated neighborhoods that also are home to high rates of poverty and crime.
The report shows the highest concentration of youth unemployment is in neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides, especially Fuller Park, Englewood, East Garfield Park and North Lawndale, each of which is more than 90 percent black. The lowest concentration is in mostly white neighborhoods on the North and Northwest sides.
“Conditions of joblessness are chronic, concentrated and comparatively worse than elsewhere in the country,” said Teresa Cordova, director of the Great Cities Institute. She called the prevalence of jobless among black males “definitely at crisis proportions.”
The report, commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and based on census data, was presented Monday at the fifth annual hearing on youth unemployment, hosted by the Chicago Urban League at its headquarters in Bronzeville.
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