ETI Publications

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Technical Paper

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This research study provides empirical data on the employment experience of young African American men who entered the Wisconsin labor force in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its goal was to examine the early labor force experience of 17,216 young men from poor families, matching state wage databases against individuals identified in the state income maintenance system (i.e., households applying for or receiving food stamps, AFDC or medical assistance, 1987-1989). The study analyzed 36,005 jobs held by the study population over five quarters. The vast majority of African American men in their early twenties who were employed were relegated to marginal, low-wage jobs for the duration of the 39 month period studied with most of the jobs in retail trades and the service industries. In 1990 only 10% of the jobs held by young men in the Milwaukee County study population paid a living wage, and only 5 percent paid a family-supporting wage. In Milwaukee because of the large number of African American youth living in families with lower incomes, it is estimated that the study population includes over 85 percent of all African American males ages 20 to 24 in 1990 and over 75 percent of African American male teens ages 16 to 19 in 1990. UWM professors Harold Rose and Ronald Edari offered critical perspectives on the data and its implications for African Americans in Milwaukee.