The Crisis Of Hopelessness Grows In The Inner City

The links among lack of education, crime, and joblessness in inner cities are getting tighter. Harvard University economist Richard Freeman told a recent Urban Institute conference that 20% of black men aged 16 to 34 were in jail or on parole or probation in 1989, and three-fourths of black prisoners 18 to 24 years old were high school dropouts.

Poor employment prospects are clearly affecting the attitudes of disadvantaged youths toward crime. According to a 1989 National Bureau of Economic Research survey, some two-thirds of inner-city young men, black and white, now believe they can make more money from crime than from legitimate work. That's about double the percentage in a similar survey conducted 10 years earlier.

Although crime rates decline and desire for lawful employment rises with age, youthful criminals tend to become pariahs in the job market. Young men with records are consistently less likely to be employed in later years than those without criminal backgrounds, says Freeman, and when employed, they earn far less on an annual basis.

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