Recognizing the Underutilized Economic Potential of Black Men in New Orleans

by Gregory Rattler, Jr.; Petrice Sams-Abiodun

Jun 14, 2013

Supported by employment and education data, the authors make the case that training and recruiting African-American men in New Orleans for jobs in the regional petrochemical and construction industries would have benefits for a "triple bottom line" – reducing chronic unemployment, reducing crime rates, and increasing the local tax base – as well as meeting the employers' pressing workforce needs.
  • Black male workers are significantly less likely than workers overall to be employed in New Orleans' growing sectors of professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services; and health care and social assistance services.
  • Economic decline and industrial restructuring in New Orleans were particularly painful for African-American men. Jobs in industries where men comprised over 70 percent of employment declined by 60 percent from 1980 to 2004. Further, only 15 percent of African-American men had an associate's degree or higher in 1980, putting them at a significant disadvantage in the labor market.
  • As real hourly wages for non-college-going workers have stagnated for the past 30 years and scarcity has driven up the cost of postsecondary talent, there has been a rapid increase in the wage gap between those with and without postsecondary education.
  • High growth is projected in good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing and heavy construction. Career pathway programs, industry partnerships, and other strategies can realize the economic potential of African-American men by enabling them to fill the vacancies in these industries.