PR Newswire
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 3:30pm UTC


PR Newswire

Black & Hispanic Youth on Chicago's South & West Sides Suffering Most from 'Sustained Inequality'

CHICAGO, May 15, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- As the nation continues to emerge from the recession brought on by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a new report on youth employment, Uneven Recovery and Sustained Inequality after the COVID-19 Recession: Employment for Chicago's Youth and Young Adults, shows that not all Chicago communities are recovering at the same rate and that Black teens especially are experiencing jobless rates higher than pre-pandemic levels, reinforcing existing inequalities.

"It's devastating that in Chicago alone there are more than 45,000 16 to 24-year-olds who are out of school and out of work," said Jack Wuest, executive director of the Alternative Schools Network. "Statewide there are a total of 163,081 out of school and jobless youth that is more than Joliet or Naperville in population. The legislature has an opportunity right now by allocating $300 million for youth employment during this legislative session to make a difference in these young people's lives."

The Data Brief conducted by the University of Illinois Chicago Great Cities Institute and commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network examines joblessness rates of young people aged 16-24 from 2019-2022 (the latest data available) in Chicago and Cook County. The report finds that young people in Chicago overall experience higher rates of unemployment than the national average and in the Cook County suburbs, but teens in primarily Black and Hispanic or Latino neighborhoods fare far worse than their white counterparts.

Key findings include:

  • Higher Youth Jobless Rates: Joblessness remains worse in Chicago than Illinois and the U.S especially for Black and Hispanic or Latino 16- to 19- and 20- to 24-year-olds, with 16- to 19-year-olds in the city having much higher jobless rates. Overall, there are more than 45,000 16-24-year-olds in Chicago who are both out of school and jobless.
  • Increase in 16- to 19-Year Olds Jobless Rates: More than 100,000 16- to 19-year olds were jobless in Chicago in 2022, a 16,000-person increase from 2021.
  • More 16- to 19-Year Olds Out-of-School & Jobless: The out-of-school and jobless rate for Black 16- to 19-year-olds in Chicago increased to 17.5 percent from 9.4 percent between 2021 and 2022, while the actual number more than doubled, to 6,527 from 3,197.
  • Spatial Inequity Between City & Suburbs: There was, in some places, a 40 percent difference in jobless rates between Chicago and the suburbs; the highest rates of joblessness for both the 16- to 19-year-old and 20- to 24-year-old age range were clustered on the city's South and West Sides.
  • Continued Disparity Between Black v. Hispanic & White Youth: While the rate of out-of-school and jobless Black 20- to 24-year olds in Chicago decreased between 2021 and 2022, from 39.2 percent to 29.6 percent, that level remains substantially higher than the rates among white and Latino or Hispanic people the same age, 7.9 percent and 15.6 percent in 2022, respectively.
  • Large Number of Out-of-School & Jobless in Illinois: There were 163,081 out-of-school and jobless 16- to 24-year-olds in Illinois in 2022. Although White 16- to 24-year olds had the lowest out-of-school and jobless rate in Illinois, followed by Hispanic or Latino and Black 16- to 24-year olds, the number of White 16- to 24-year olds that were out-of-school and jobless was higher because they make up a higher percentage of the state's population. The number of out-of-school and jobless 16- to 24-year-olds by race in 2022 were:
    • 61,288 for White 16- to 24-year-olds
    • 44,807 for Black 16- to 24-year-olds, and
    • 42,990 for Hispanic or Latino 16- to 24-year-olds.

"This report shows that despite an overall rebound in employment levels in Chicago since the pandemic, recovery has been uneven among different racial and ethnic groups in Chicago," said Matthew D. Wilson, Associate Director of Economic and Workforce Development at Great Cities Institute and one of the authors of the report. "Black and Latino teens and young adults continue to have high jobless and out-of-school jobless rates compared to white Chicagoans."

The Importance of Youth Employment
Younger people have several disadvantages when it comes to looking for work, especially when they're competing against older people for jobs: lack of experience and education, less training, and smaller social networks they can tap for opportunities and referrals.

There are ways for the city to help provide more equitable employment opportunities for teens and young people. The report cites two pre-pandemic studies of summer work programs in Chicago and Boston that show the positive effects of jobs for disadvantaged young people. These programs give young people practical work experience, provide them with mentors and people they can use as references and give them confidence when it comes to starting a new job.

The Chicago study showed a 43 percent decrease in arrests for violent crimes among the 1,634 disadvantaged teens who participated in the One Summer Chicago Plus summer work program in 2017. The program cost the city approximately $3,000 per participant (including wages and administrative costs), the benefit-cost ratio from reduced crime could be 11 to 1 for the year youth participate.

In Boston, researchers surveyed 663 participants in the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program from 2015-2017 before and after their time in the program. The students showed dramatic increases in their levels of confidence and connectedness to their communities and that by the end of the program, nearly three-quarters had prepared a resume and cover letter, practiced interviewing skills and searched for jobs online.

"The question is will we have the political will to create opportunities for this generation or will we falter and repeat the mistakes that are illustrated by the GCI report findings. Our children's futures are in our hands. Again, we call on the state legislature to provide $300 million to support programs that will not only pay off now but will offer generational dividends in the future."

The Alternative Schools Network is a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago that supports affiliated groups who operate education, employment and support service programs to provide quality education with a specific emphasis on former out of school inner-city children, youth and their families.
To read the full report, please go to

The UIC Great Cities Institute works to link its academic resources with a range of partners to address urban issues by providing research, policy analysis and program development. Tied to the University of Illinois Chicago Great Cities Commitment, GCI seeks to improve quality of life in Chicago, its metropolitan region and cities throughout the world. For more information go to

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SOURCE Alternative Schools Network