Minneapolis Area's Racial Employment Disparity makes the News
A report released yesterday by the Washington D.C. based Economic Policy Institute reports that the Minneapolis area has the largest racial disparity in unemployment of any metropolitan area in the country.
The report, called, Uneven pain—Unemployment by metropolitan area and race by Algeron Austin is also mentioned in a short article from the Minnesota Independent. The report reveals that the unemployment rate of blacks in 20.4 % in the Minneapolis areas compared to 6.6% for whites. That represents a ratio of 3 to 1 and a 13.8% difference.
This is clearly not good news, but does suggest that I was on the right track when I identified closing the racial disparities in poverty and employment by raising the income and employment levels of poor people in Minneapolis as one of my 2010 top 5 priorities.
I think that in some ways the City is well positioned to make progress on this based on the City-County Equity in Employment Action Team we established in 2008 to examine and implement best practices for reducing economic disparities between minority and majority communities. That group helped us identify and approve 2 new targets for the City's Employment and Poverty Sustainability Indicator in December of 2009. These are:
1. Reduce the percentage of employed Minneapolis residents living in poverty from the 2008 baseline of 10.1% to 7% by 2014.
2. Reduce the percentage of Minneapolis minority residents living in poverty from the 2008 Census Bureau reported average of 36% to that of the 2008 metropolitan minority overage of 21% by 2014.
I am also hopeful because this spring the City’s Employment and Training Program, in cooperation with Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, was been awarded $4 million by the Department of Labor for a Pathways Out of Poverty Grant, through the Renewable Energy Network Empowering Workers (RENEW) Project.
This project will help provide training and employment for 500 residents, while ensuring that area businesses have access to a well-trained workforce that is prepared to carry out the work of greening the local economy. RENEW is a collaboration between the City of Minneapolis Workforce Council, Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board, neighborhood-based non-profits, labor organizations, education and training institutions, and the green business community. I am very hopeful that this will not only build the economic capital of low-income residents, but also build the workforce capital of the region’s large green business base.
Operational partners for the RENEW include: Guadalupe Alternative Program; MN Transitions Charter School; the Minneapolis North and South WorkForce Centers (DEED); Goodwill/Easter Seals; EMERGE Community Development; Resource, Inc.; HIRED; American Indian OIC; Minneapolis Urban League; Project for Pride in Living (PPL); Lifetrack Resources; Women Venture; Rebuild Resources; Summit Academy OIC; M&J Environmental; Minneapolis Community and Technical College; Dunwoody College of Technology; St. Paul College; Century College; St. Paul Adult Basic Education; Minneapolis Adult Basic Education; United Way; and Minneapolis & St. Paul Building Trades.
Racial disparities in employment and poverty is a persistent and serious problem, for some reason more serious in our area than in the rest of the country. It is going to take a large scale, long term and smart collaborative effort to find a solution.
As bad as this is, I think admitting it and measuring it will help us more than ignoring it.
This report and this kind of publicity shows we have been smart to at least try to focus on this issue in recent years.
Let’s use this information to get ourselves to work harder and to leverage more resources to help solve the problem and close the gap.