The situation of high unemployment for black men is not new. It has persisted for decades, and scholars, sociologists, economists, policy makers, and advocates have brought attention to various aspects of this challenge and put forth solutions. Yet, it is seemingly an intractable situation. In 2012, three years after the end of the recession, the black male unemployment rate was in the double digits for every age category up to age 65. This was not the case for any other racial group. In 2010, half of working black men were employed in the two occupational clusters with the lowest average earnings. The situation was the same in 2000, and in 1990. In addition to being disproportionately represented in low-wage occupations, black men are much more likely than white men to be working part-time and to experience longer durations of unemployment. Ample evidence shows that the contributors to long-term labor market success are at play early in adolescent and young-adult experiences. Academic preparation, early work experience, civic engagement, career exposure, and adult navigation support provide the scaffolding that supports young people as they mature in the work place. All of these types of activities and supports add to the portfolio of experiences that make individuals marketable as they enter the labor market as young adults. It is also quite evident that adolescent black boys and young men lack much of this support as they prepare for the job market. By the time young black boys enter the labor market as young adults they are already at a substantial competitive disadvantage, especially those residing in low income communities. Altering the employment landscape for black men in general will require acknowledging and addressing those issues and circumstances that put young black men at such significant disadvantage in the labor market and making the necessary investments to interrupt the cycle of underachievement and establish new trajectories to adult success. (Author abstract)
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