By Carla Javits
I’m Carla Javits, President of REDF (formerly the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund). I’m especially interested in the conference because there’s a full track on workforce development. Those two words have the dullest sound, but the realities behind them couldn’t be more exciting and critical.
I just read a paper by Steve Raphael, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy that basically laid out the statistics around race, prison and work. “For black men with less than a high school education, a prior prison spell was nearly certain”. (emphasis added)….”Combined with relatively easy access to criminal history records and employers screening on this factor, this trend indicates that this particular development has become an increasingly important handicap for low-skilled men in the legitimate labor market.” He goes on to discuss the declines in earnings since the 1980’s among relatively less educated men and women, with the most severe declines for men.
I won’t go on and on although when you really dig into the data on this topic it’s pretty breathtaking. Just one more – the median wage for about a quarter of our labor force is around $9.50/hour. How to move more people into the workforce and help them advance couldn’t be more pressing. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn about this at the conference.