Using the latest Census survey results, DCFPI delves into the impacts of the recession.
As I earlier noted, the recession has hit the District’s racial and ethnic minorities especially hard. Also (not unrelated) residents with no more than a high school education. White residents and those with at least a bachelor’s degree (also not unrelated) have weathered the downturn quite well, thank you.
As a result, the gaps between the haves and the have-nots are wider than ever. For example, in 2009:
- Only 49.5% of black D.C. residents over 16 had any job at all — down from a pretty dismal 56% in 2000.
- The employment rate among white D.C. adults was 28.5% higher — widening the black/white gap to the largest in 30 years.
- The employment rate for Latino D.C. adults dropped to 68%, though it had previously remained fairly close to the rate for white D.C. adults.
- The employment rate among D.C. adults with no more than a high school diploma fell to 48% — down by 10% from 2000.
- The employment rate for college-educated D.C. adults remained nearly constant at 80%.
- They earned, on average, $16 per hour more than those with only a high school education and $20 per hour more than those with less.
- The wage gap between blacks and whites reached an all-time high. White residents earned, on average, 77% more than black residents, as compared to 60% in 2000.
- Looked at another way, the average inflation-adjusted wage for black residents has increased by just 1% in the last nine years, while white residents have gained, on average, 19%.
DCFPI puts its finger on the link between these gaps. While 80% of white D.C. residents over 25 have a college degree, only 21% of their black counterparts do.
Thus, it concludes, our local labor market is likely to remain “challenging” for them — and for other D.C. residents without a college degree.
The much-touted reforms in our public education system may help the next generation, as may soon-to-be-mayor Vincent Gray’s focuses on early childhood education and workforce development-oriented expansion of DC Community College.
But, as Marina Streznewski, Coordinator of the DC Jobs Council, asks, “What are you going to do about the generation left behind?” What, for example, about the more than 36% of D.C. adults who don’t have the functional literacy skills to even read a job application?
No simple answer here. But this much I think is certain. We won’t have a healthy economy — let alone “one city” — if the mayor and the DC Council cut the District’s small investments in education and training for both adults and young high school dropouts when they once again re-balance our budget.