Institute President and CEO Ryan Haygood writes for the Aspen Institute:
The city is home to one of the largest transportation hubs in the United States, Fortune 500 businesses, world-class research universities and cultural institutions, and a large network of hospitals and community health centers. And a majority of the people who work in Newark earn more than $40,000 a year, according to a powerful report written by Demelza Baer, my colleague at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
But this prosperity is not shared by a majority of Newark residents, where 33 percent of Black residents live in poverty.
It is therefore not uncommon for me to see residents waiting to receive unemployment and other benefits in a line that extends as long as a city block, while on the other end of the street, billion-dollar construction projects are underway.
This is part of a broader, troubling picture: Newark residents hold only 18 percent of all jobs in the city. In this regard, Newark is a stark outlier among similarly situated cities. In Baltimore, for example, residents hold 33 percent of jobs. In New Orleans, it’s 46 percent. And while almost three-quarters of Newark residents are people of color, 60 percent of the people employed in Newark are white.
Importantly, these disparities in employment cannot be explained by a lack of desire or ability to work. Newark has the same labor force participation rate — the percentage of the population that is either employed or actively seeking work — as the rest of the United States, about 63 percent. However, we have higher unemployment. This leaves Newark with a troublingly high proportion of residents ready and willing to work, but unable to find either full- or part-time jobs.
Instead, these racial disparities reflect systemic failures, which require systemic solutions.