A look at black youth unemployment (sixteen to nineteen years of age) focusing on black youth in Virginia

Mary Martin Tucker


Virginia's black youth have experienced unemployment at disproportionately higher rates than white youth. The nation's black youth have also experienced unemployment in the same manner. Subsequently, black youth in Virginia and in the nation appear to have less success at getting and/or keeping jobs than white youth. Although the national unemployment rates for black youth have been high over the past three decades and remain disproportionate, there has been a decrease in unemployment for black youth. The black/white youth unemployment gap has remained the same, however. It is also important to note that white youth unemployment at the national level has also decreased, but at a higher rate. Virginia's black youth unemployment rate has worsened over the past three decades while white youth have been less affected by unemployment. Consequently, the gap between Virginia's black and white youth unemployment rates ( 17. 2 percentage points in 1990) is almost the same as the national rate (17.7 percentage points).

The case studies of Virginia counties and cities reveal that under certain local environmental conditions, such as strong economies, a generous supply of service oriented occupations, small black youth populations and supportive programs, there is hope. While black youth unemployment is and always has been disproportionately higher than white youth unemployment, we can identify conditions under which the rates of unemployment are similar or even better for blacks.

The conclusions reached in this thesis should not be viewed as entirely conclusive but should be viewed as a contribution to the study of a multifaceted problem, black youth unemployment. As with all analytical studies, this study does not measure all factors that may affect black youth unemployment at the local level nor does it measure local environmental conditions (such as; strong economies, service oriented occupations, small black youth populations and supportive programs) for localities with high black youth unemployment. However, the results of this thesis do suggest to future researchers that the role of local environmental conditions are important factors that beg further inquiry when studying black youth unemployment.