Job Creation Isn’t Enough

My latest column is available in the September issue of Governing magazine. It’s about the challenges with a segment of our population that faces difficult prospects because of social problems in the working class such as dropping out, drugs, etc.

I wrote this in the wake of headlines in publications like the New York Times talking about the HIV epidemic in Southern Indiana, which is a couple counties over from where I grew up. This reality is not specific to Indiana, however. It’s basically the same story Robert Putnam told about his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio in his book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

What’s happened to Southern Indiana is happening around the country. The problems defy easy solutions and there’s little agreement on even the causes. But it will take more than just jobs to deal with poverty or provide upward social mobility.

Here’s an excerpt:

While certainly the good old days of plentiful high-paid jobs at the auto plant are gone, it’s still possible to build a life in America if you graduate from high school, stay away from drugs and crime, wait until you’re married to have children, and show up to work every day. But if you slip on one of these points, say by dropping out of school, you are put into a deficit in life from which you may find it difficult to recover. Sadly this has affected a lot of people, who are now in a very difficult place.

To be clear, there are many who suffer from a bona fide skill deficit or geographic mismatch, especially older industrial workers who long ago demonstrated that they are able and willing to work a steady job but have struggled to find work after plant closures. Yet for a segment of our population, traditional workforce or economic development remedies will not help. Whatever their root cause, which is a source of dispute, there are baseline personal and social issues that need to be overcome.

Click through to read the whole thing.

from The Urbanophile


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