Institute Joins City of Newark in Newark 2020 Launch

On June 26, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (“Institute”) joined Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark for the launch of Mayor Baraka’s Newark 2020, also known as Hire Newark, an unprecedented jobs initiative for Newark residents.

Newark 2020 is an initiative to combat poverty in Newark by connecting 2,020 unemployed Newark residents to meaningful, full-time work that pays a living wage by 2020, thereby cutting in half the gap in the unemployment rate between Newark, which has a poverty rate double the national average, and New Jersey, one of the wealthiest states in America, by 2020.

Hire. Buy. Live. Newark partners include the City of Newark, the Institute, PNCT, Prudential, RWJBarnabas, Rutgers-Newark, PSEG, Panasonic, LISC, the Victoria Foundation, Audible, United Airlines, NJ Institute of Technology, Edison Properties, the Newark Alliance, Ports America, the Newark Anchor Collaborative, Maher Terminals, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Prudential Center, Horizon, Verizon, Urban League of Essex County, Newark Community Development Network, and more.

“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looked to Newark and other urban communities and explained that the country consisted of ‘two Americas,’ divided by race,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Institute President and CEO. “Fifty years later, perhaps no other city embodies both the reality of the two Americas and the possibility of bridging these entrenched divides more than the City of Newark. Mayor Baraka’s Newark 2020 initiative seeks to finally bridge these Two Americas in the mighty city of Newark by connecting residents to living wage jobs.”

The Institute’s report, “Bridging the Two Americas: Employment & Economic Opportunity in Newark & Beyond," shows the necessity of Newark 2020. The report found that the high poverty rate in Newark is largely due to a lack of access to economic opportunity. While the majority of people working in Newark (56.4 percent) earn more than $40,000 per year, local residents do not have meaningful access to these jobs, as residents hold just 18 percent of all jobs in the city.  This makes Newark an outlier among similarly-situated cities. For example, local residents hold 46 percent of jobs in New Orleans, and 33 percent of jobs in Baltimore.

Moreover, local residents working in Newark tend to be concentrated in lower paying jobs. In comparison with non-Newark residents, local residents hold 26 percent of jobs paying less than $15,000 annually in Newark and 28 percent of jobs paying between $15,000 and $40,000 per year, but only 10 percent of jobs paying more than $40,000 annually. 

“This initiative is critical, because in one of the wealthiest states in the most prosperous nation in the world, it’s unacceptable that 30 percent of Newark residents live in poverty, and over half of households cannot afford to meet their basic needs for housing, healthcare, food, transportation, and childcare,” said Haygood.

There are also stark racial disparities. While almost three-quarters of Newark residents are people of color, 60 percent of the people employed in Newark are white, according to the Institute’s report.  Just 31 percent of the people employed in Newark are Black and only 20 percent are Latino.

“Newark 2020 is ultimately about opening the doors of economic opportunity to more people in the city, particularly low-income people and people of color,” said the report’s primary author, Demelza Baer, Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative. “This initiative closely aligns with the Institute’s work to ensure equality of economic opportunity, so that every person in our community has the chance to pursue the American dream.”

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