|Illinois’ black community deserves solutions
The Illinois General Assembly has largely ignored the fact that Illinois has the nation’s highest black unemployment rate. The problem should be discussed, studied and solved. And the ineffective solutions of the past aren’t going to fix it.
Black families deserve robust school choice so they can opt out of failing schools. And minimum wage hikes should be reconsidered – research finds overwhelming evidence that minimum wage hikes keep low-skilled and minority workers out of starter jobs. Minimum wage hikes will continue to create a barrier to entry to valuable first job opportunities so long as failing schools continue to do a poor job preparing young adults for the workforce.
Anti-growth industrial policies that hurt black families should also be reconsidered, especially the prevailing wage law and the taxes and regulations that drive away manufacturing jobs. These policy failures overwhelmingly affect black job opportunities. Research shows that prevailing wage laws result in lower wages for black construction workers and less construction work for black laborers. And Illinois’ manufacturing job losses, much the result of state and local policy failures, drive black families to seek industrial work in northwest Indiana and in Southern states.
Finally, commonsense reforms to Illinois’ criminal justice system and occupational licensing regulations will help reduce Illinois’ incarceration rate and eliminate hurdles that prevent black Illinoisans from landing a job after having been convicted of a crime. Nearly 60 percent of Illinois’ prison population is black, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections, and therefore black Illinoisans are more likely to face barriers to job opportunities that affect people with felony records.
Addressing the nation’s highest black unemployment rate should be a top priority for Illinois lawmakers, who should tackle the problem with policy solutions that will have a positive impact on black families. Otherwise, black neighborhoods will continue to depopulate as families move east to Indiana and migrate back to the South in search of better opportunities.