By Imara Jones
As the White House prepares to launch a major economic opportunity effort, record high unemployment among black and Latino youth underscores how essential it is to create job opportunities for young people of color.
The critical issue here is that the ages of 16 to 24 are make or break years for lifelong earning potential. With one out four blacks and one out of six Latinos under the age of 25 without work, a generation of youth of color risks falling behind.
The situation for black and Latino unemployed youths is so alarming that leading think tanks and economists are raising red flags about it at a staggering pace. One report on the topic by Demos, the public policy organization, argues that the “exclusion of young people of color” from job opportunities “weakens the promise of America.”*
With wealth in African-American and Latino communities already the lowest on record, a loss of income on a generational scale would likely harden existing inequities and set back economic progress in the country for decades. That’s because there are simply so many young blacks and Latinos who want work but can’t find it.
The Older Worker Squeeze
The jumpoff for understanding what’s going on is that the youth jobs market as a whole, like the broader labor market, is in shambles.
With one out six young people without work, youth unemployment is higher than at any point since most people under the age of 25 have been alive. Close to half of the four million young people without work are African-American or Latino. They are joined by another six million young people of all racial backgrounds who have given up looking for work out of frustration.