In Focus: Youth of Color

Jan 17, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

The High Cost of Youth Unemployment

By Zane Jennings and Kisha Bird

Since the Great Recession, young adults have struggled to connect with and thrive in the American workforce. A new study by Young Invincibles, “In This Together,” demonstrates the dire situation young adults face in today’s labor market a and the economic consequences of youth unemployment to our nation.

Since 2007, workers ages 18 to 34 (known as “Millennials)” have faced double digit unemployment rates. And the youngest American workers, ages 16 to 24, have fared the worst, with unemployment rates exceeding twice the national average. In contrast to prior economic downturns, in which young adult unemployment returned to pre-recession levels within 5 years, recovery from the Great Recession is taking significantly longer.

Continued high unemployment has caused many young adults to withdraw completely from the workforce. Recent research estimates 5.8 million young adults are neither working nor in school. Ages 16 through 24 are critical development years, as young people prepare to take on adult responsibilities. Having early work experience and attachment to the labor market is essential to establishing work history and credibility and is a predictor of future wages and employment mobility.

According to the study, young adults’ economic struggles, anxiety, and “deferment or denial of dreams” have major consequences both for them personally and for the national economy. Through loss of tax revenue and safety net expenditures, federal and state governments lose almost $9 billion annually due to Millennial unemployment. That’s roughly $4,100 in forgone tax revenue and public benefits for each unemployed person between the ages of 18 and 24, and $9,875 for each unemployed person between 25 and 34.

Tackling the issue of youth unemployment is not only the right thing to do—it is a necessity. As we continue to right our sluggish economy and address long-term challenges, such as the federal budget deficit, special attention must be paid to the broader economic implications of this demographic in the workforce.

Young Invincibles identifies several strategies to reconnect young adults to the workforce and improve their skills, including:

  • Investing in national service programs, such as AmeriCorps. Expanding national service will enable young adults to make money and garner work experience while contributing to communities in need.
  • Reinstating the Youth Opportunity Grant. Although grant funding ended in 2005, an evaluation of the program showed that Youth Opportunity created pathways to education, training, jobs, and internships for thousands of youth in high-poverty communities.
  • Expanding the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program. RA provides training in vital technical skills, as well as wages for workers. The RA program is also an incredible investment for the federal government and employers.  For every dollar invested, the federal government gains $50 in return. Employers also many reap benefits including a more technical and well-trained workforce.
  • Establishing a “Career Internship” standard by offering long-term internships with school-approved employers that provide wages and/or school credit. The recommendation also includes a targeted component to allow for the participation of out-of-school youth.
  • Providing more opportunities for Millennial workers. Their greatest strengths—their technology skills and entrepreneurial, collaborative, and creative approaches to problem solving—are essential assets to employers.

CLASP has long advocated for a diverse set of policies and interventions to connect the most vulnerable youth (including those without a secondary credential and youth of color) to work, education, and ultimately opportunity; this includes building on research and lessons learned from the Youth Opportunity Grant Program.

As “In This Together” shows, young adult unemployment is an important issue with widespread consequences for continued inaction.  It is imperative that we act, and act quickly.

Read the full report and access state data>>

Learn about CLASP youth policy recommendations >>>

Aug 2, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Where Do We Go From Here? Solutions in the Wake of Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman

By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt Bryant

I was in Florida visiting my family, less than 100 miles from Sanford, when the verdict was delivered declaring George Zimmerman not guilty. I remember feeling numb, then sick to my stomach. My reaction was intensified by the fact that I was with the African American males who matter the most to me: my husband, a dark-skinned man with a booming voice and larger-than-life personality; my younger brother, a six-foot, one-inch man with an easygoing spirit who works in corporate America by day and the music scene by night; and my eight-year-old son, an inquisitive young man who is one of my life's greatest joys. As I looked at them, hot, angry tears flowed down my cheeks. I shut off my phone and the television.  I didn't want to see any news stories, talk to anyone, or read any blog posts or tweets. I just wanted to be alone with my anger and grief. I needed that time and space to process the verdict and its implications.

Later, when I listened to President Obama's response to the verdict, I imagined that he, too, needed that same kind of time. As the leader of a nation, the President is required daily to process situations quickly and decisively, and to make statements about the nation's position and next steps, almost immediately. But this time was different. As an African American man and father, I am sure this case hit home and struck a chord in ways no other policy or issue has during his presidency. President Obama said, "Trayvon Martin could have been my son[...] Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." One must understand that the killing of Trayvon Martin and the "not guilty" verdict of George Zimmerman hit African Americans like the knockout blow of a heavyweight fighter. African Americans like our President.

President Obama acknowledged some important truths in his speech about the Zimmerman verdict-truths no president has ever stated so plainly. First, America's criminal laws are applied unevenly, resulting in racial disparities in "everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws." In 2010, the Sentencing Project found that African Americans were incarcerated at a rate 5.6 times higher than that of whites. Research shows that this trend was exacerbated by the "war on drugs" that began in the 1980s. In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine. This legislation came about, in part, because of research that showed both versions of the drug were essentially the same. Prior to the passage of this law, 80 percent of those sentenced for dealing crack cocaine were African American.

So, where do we go from here?



Jun 28, 2013  |  PERMALINK »

Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Lower Court

By Kisha Bird

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision on the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin  (UT) case.  This challenge was brought by a white student, Fisher, who claims she was denied admission to UT due to an admissions policy that considers race.  For months, advocates of racial justice and supporters of affirmative action anxiously waited for this decision as it would have major implications for racial preferences in admissions to public colleges and universities, as well as for the broader legacy of affirmative action. 

In a seven to one decision, the Court neither rejected nor endorsed the race-based admissions policy at UT and sent the case back to a lower court, citing that not enough scrutiny had been given to the University of Texas' admissions program. With this ruling, the Court upholds previous decisions-including Grutter v. Bollinger-which affirmed the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program and held that diversity is a compelling interest for public universities and that race can be used as a factor in admissions.

The Constitutional Law Scholars, in a joint statement, notes that the Court's Fisher decision ultimately determined that "admissions programs that consider race as one of many factors in the context of an individualized consideration of all applicants can clearly pass constitutional review" and that the decision "makes clear that promoting diversity in higher education can justify race-conscious admissions policies when they are carefully designed and consider race only as part of a flexible and individualized review of all applicants." In sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court further clarified how courts must determine if an admission policy passes muster. In a statement issued earlier this week, UT President Bill Powers called the decision encouraging.  Vowing to continue to defend the University's admission policy, he expressed confidence that it would satisfy the strict standards prescribed by the court.

Last summer, CLASP joined the Kirwan Institute and a national coalition of black male achievement initiatives (BMI)  in urging the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas.  In the BMI amicus brief, we advocated for the Court to examine the low numbers of African American males currently enrolled at select universities, citing that studies of college diversity seldom consider information about both race and gender.  Black males are "especially vulnerable to exclusion from postsecondary educational opportunities without every available constitutional tool to include them."  It is important to improve post-secondary and college attainment for all African-Americans, but great gender disparities exist.  Among U.S. residents, Black females are far more likely to have earned a post-secondary degree-accounting for 68 percent of associate's degrees, 66 percent of bachelor's degrees, 71 percent of master's degrees, and 65 percent of all doctor's degrees awarded to Black students. [i]

Holistic race-conscious admission policies help in allowing young black males to gain access to selective colleges and universities and are a critical tool in helping colleges and universities identify student talent and population groups that have been traditionally excluded from opportunities for higher education advancement.   CLASP is encouraged by this ruling and is hopeful that the American university community maintains a commitment to affirmative action policies and ensuring diversity.


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