A new commentary from the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggests that the key to addressing gun violence in Black communities starts with remedying economic hardship. Race and Economic Justice Director Algernon Austin explained the documented link between gun violence and economic stability.
According to Austin’s research, Black men 18-34 years old are overrepresented among gun homicide victims. He noted that while economic hardship is only one variable dealing with gun violence, reducing economic hardship could be a “powerful tool” to reduce gun violence.
Relying on data from 2019, Austin found a significant relationship between high rates of economic hardship and gun violence. While some politicians seem to think 90’s nostalgia reboots mean bringing back tough-on-crime rhetoric, evidence suggests that addressing persisting economic disparity is one way to reduce gun violence.
Focusing solely on the criminal aspect of gun violence ignores the persistence of the problem. Austin wrote in December 2021 about the continued crisis for Black men noting that Black men had the highest unemployment rate for the prior 20 years.
The possible relationship between the alleged increase in violent crime and ongoing economic disparities suggests these considerations should be a part of any economic recovery. Black workers, and by extension their families, remain at a disadvantage despite the recovering economy. Ignoring the root causes ultimately ignores any chance to have meaningful progress in reducing gun violence.
While only one aspect of improving economic conditions for communities, ongoing inequality in employment is an area that cannot be overlooked.
The latest jobs report showed a slight decrease in overall Black unemployment to 6.9 percent in January, down from 7.1 percent. According to CNBC, Black workforce participation also increased to 62 percent, the same as white workers.
Although there was a slight improvement in overall Black unemployment, the January 2022 unemployment rate for Black youth (16-19) remains above 20 percent.
Alex Camardelle, workforce policy director for the Joint Center for Political And Economic Studies, recently told the New York Times that Black workers are not benefitting equally despite the Biden administration’s celebration of the “quick recovery.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, economic recovery for Black people lag behind the country. Unemployment rates for Black men remain twice the national average. But as Camardelle explained in late November, the difference in economic indicators, noting the human that the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story.
“When people look at the unemployment rate, if you were to humanize that number, you’re looking at people who are not just working but also actively looking for a job,” he told NewsOne in a prior interview. “The labor force participation rate captures those who are also not looking at all, who have dropped out of the labor force completely.”
It’s no surprise the recovery hasn’t reached Black workers at the same rate as others. Racial disparities in workforce participation require intentional interventions.
“We also need to combat racial discrimination in the labor market and raise the federal minimum wage,” Austin wrote. “That’s not all that needs to be done, but it is a good place to start.”