Today I led a “future of work” workshop at Black Communities: A Conference for Collaboration,” a gathering of Black scholars and activists from around the globe in Durham, NC.I was incredibly excited that Dr. William “Sandy” Darity-one of the world’s top Black economists–joined us and provided informal insights. Sandy is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke, and he’s also the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity
Sandy observed that racial discrimination in employment is a key factor in the disproportionate representation of African Americans in lower paying jobs that are at high risk to automation. He cited this study by S. Michael Gaddis comparing otherwise identical resumes from elite private schools (e.g., Harvard) that found that found resumes with “white sounding” names had a much greater chance of a call back than “Black sounding” names. “Black sounding” elite private school resumes had about the same chance of a callback as a resumes with “white sounding” names from state institutions.
Sandy indicated that understanding the timing of automation of the categories of different jobs is key in figuring out solutions for Black communities.
Sandy proposed that one solution to displacement (and unemployment generally) is a federal job guarantee, which recently has been converted into legislation click here for the Senator Cory Booker version,and here for the Senator Bernie Sanders version).
Here’s a snapshot of the Booker version:
“[This legislation] seeks to establish a model federal jobs guarantee program in up to 15 high-unemployment communities and regions across the United States. The bill, the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act, would allow high-need communities to apply to participate in a 3-year pilot program to guarantee the option of employment for all of its residents.
The program would guarantee that adults in participating communities who want to work can do so, in a job that pays a living wage and provides benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave – all while helping to advance critical local and national priorities that are currently under-provided, like child and elder care, infrastructure, and community revitalization.Sandy rejects the need to choose between a federal job guarantee and Universal Basic Income, but that if he had to choose, he’d go with the federal job guarantee. His take is that existing employers would simply use UBI to subsidize low wages they pay to their employees, whereas a federal job guarantee with a respectable salary point would make private sector employers pay more to compete for labor.
(Sandy also just released a new report with Dr. Darrick Hamilton that argues that the racial wealth gap was not produced by supposed black pathology and cannot be closed by individual effort. Here’s a summary and link to the report
In addition to Sandy, I received valuable feedback from various other participants about the future of work in Black communities (as well as about the future of the Joint Center). Recommendations included focusing on ecommerce, engaging Black Googlers, developing deep connections in Silicon Valley, preventing Black brain drain, reinvesting in the South, holding companies and municipalities that make economic development commitments accountable, a future JC program that focuses on the great potential of economic development/exchange in the African diaspora, revitalizing community leadership of the church, zoning tech hubs, supporting urban planners, and deploying the most effective strategies to reduce poverty.