Chicago Rates of Employment Vary Along Racial Demographics

By: Daniel Steingold | May 24, 2016

Chicago has long been a city that has been perceived to be less than ideal when it comes to minority employment rates, and a new report released this week by the Brookings Institute shows that not much has changed.

Among youth, defined as 20-to 24-year-olds, Chicago’s unemployment rate is 53 percent for blacks, the lowest among all American cities studied— only Philadelphia came close. Conversely, the unemployment rate for white youth was found to be among the lowest, at 27 percent.

Hispanic youths in Chicago were employed at a 70 percent clip, significantly higher than Philadelphia’s 60 percent rate for said demographic.

The study determined that black young adults in the Chicago area are seven times more likely than whites to not be working or going to school. Being part of this group makes one much more susceptible to long spells of unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, and incarceration.

Only Philadelphia and Los Angeles have similar racial gaps in terms of rates of youth who are deemed “disconnected.” This is despite the fact that the nation’s third biggest city actually ranks below the national average of 9.9 percent with 9.3 percent of youth being disconnected.

The Brookings Institute study just reaffirms an equality index released by the National Urban League that showed how the entire state of Illinois ranks 65th out of 70 cities in terms of black-white employment equality. Only five percent of whites in Illinois are unemployed, compared to 14.1 percent of blacks.

It should be emphasized that education level plays a major factor in determining employment rates. Nationwide, 87 percent of young adults with a Bachelor’s degree were employed in 2014, which drops to 52 percent for youth who don’t possess a high school diploma.

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