Expanding Economic Opportunity for Young Men and Boys of Color through Employment and Training

by Harry Holzer; Lauren Eyster; Robert I. Lerman; Shayne Spaulding

Feb 1, 2015

Young men of color have long experienced lower earnings and higher unemployment compared to young white men. Many factors have contributed to these negative outcomes: persistent discrimination, hiring practices of employers, geographic and social isolation, substandard secondary education, lack of career and postsecondary educational guidance, inadequate career and technical education, and higher incarceration rates. This paper focuses on promising strategies for improving the labor market outcomes of low-income young men of color. It outlines an employment-focused approach to improving economic opportunities and outcomes for these young men, highlighting potential policy, system and institutional reforms as well as program investments.
  • Initiatives aimed at improving the economic opportunities and outcomes by enhancing skills of young men of color need to also have systemic reforms that reduce persistent discrimination in hiring and make secondary, post-secondary, and other institutions more responsive to the labor market and the populations they serve.
  • Young men of color face discrimination by employers based on race, ethnicity, criminal records, credit history, and long-term unemployment.
  • Many effective or promising programs that serve young men of color – whether aimed at improving low-basic skills, success in college, or transitions to the labor market – are small or only "one-shot" efforts; such programs should be enhanced, expanded, and replicated.
  • Secondary educations programs can provide students with skills needed to secure well-paying jobs in today's labor market through vocationally focused schools and career academies.
  • Community colleges and other institutions of higher education need to become more flexible, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of men of color, including creating a sense of "belonging" for students who may be the first in their families to go to college or may perceive themselves as not fitting in the nexus between education and careers could significantly improve men of color's life outcomes.