Sunday, April 29, 2012

Employment Picture in South Los Angeles Worse Now Than During the 1992 Riots

So, I guess we're just waiting for the spark to set off the powder keg, or something.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Blacks in South L.A. have a bleaker jobs picture than in 1992":
Two decades after the L.A. riots brought pledges of help to rebuild South Los Angeles, the area is worse off in many ways than it was in 1992.

Median income, when adjusted for inflation, is lower. Many middle-class blacks have fled in search of safer neighborhoods and better schools.

And the unemployment rate, which was bad at the time of the riots, has reached even more dire levels. In two areas of South Los Angeles — Florence Graham and Westmont — unemployment is almost 24%. Back in 1992, it was 21% in Florence Graham and 17% in Westmont.

Last summer, thousands of South Los Angeles residents showed up to a job fair that brought out almost 200 employers at Crenshaw Christian Center on Vermont Avenue. The event, organized by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), was seen by some as grandstanding.

"People were really skeptical," said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, a community organizer with the nonprofit Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. "People thought, 'Another job fair?'"

There have been training and other job programs — both privately and government-funded — in the roughly 51-square-mile area in the last two decades. A post-riots report said the area needed an investment of about $6 billion and the creation of 75,000 to 94,000 jobs.

The federal and state governments spent as much as $768 million, according to a 1994 estimate, but the main aim of Rebuild L.A. — the group leading the revitalization effort — was to steer the private sector to create jobs in the area.

Toyota, Pioneer Electronics and IBM were among the corporations that held seminars and classes.

The training center started by Toyota, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Urban League, was one of the few that succeeded in the decade after the riots. It's now closed, but it produced about 1,000 graduates trained in entry-level automotive skills.

Most of the private-sector programs, however, had little effect.

"There are many things the private sector does well, but investment in depressed areas is not often one of them," said Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. "The nature of private-sector investors is to look where the payoff is. If you've got large swaths of the city where there are bad schools, poor people and crime, that's not where private investment will go."
The funny thing is, just the other day the New York Times was touting how the changed demographics of South Los Angeles signaled a rising level of prosperity for the area's blacks, who moved out to the suburbs to buy homes and so forth. The Los Angeles Times piece, on the other hand, makes this out to be a bad thing. Not enough black consumers for black-owned businesses, or something. Or blacks are "stigmatized" for living in the area. That's just horrible. Sheesh. I guess the authors want the federal government to kick in more money for "community development," "urban renewal," or whatever folks call these tax-funded programs nowadays, programs that have failed over and over to lift the nation's poor. Indeed, one of the scholars interviewed at the report says what's needed is a "muscular public investment" in education. That's either pure stupidity or a bald-faced lie. We spend more money today on public education than we did in the 1960s, when educational outcomes were much better.