Bogus Numbers About Black Unemployment in Milwaukee
In a column last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Eugene Kane led off by noting recent “news reports” that the rate of black male unemployment is nearly 50 percent. Gosh, if the figure is from news reports, it must be true, right?People like Levine, who is acting like a political activist rather than an academic researcher, doubtless think of themselves as being “concerned” about the black community, but when people try to be politically correct, they often do damage to the cause they think they are aiding.
If you had any doubt, consider a Business Journal story from last year telling readers the black male unemployment rate could be as high as 60 percent.
Yup, this is apparently a city where most black males don’t have jobs, where their rate of unemployment is astronomically high, higher than it was during the Great Depression. The bad news was spread nationally by publications such as the West Orlando News and by the Wikipedia entry on Milwaukee. There’s even a documentary movie informing the world of our toxically high black unemployment rate.
As it happens, this much-traveled and misleading statistic is based on one source: UW-Milwaukee researcher Marc Levine’s reports on black male unemployment. How does Levine come up with this figure? When computing his jobless rate, he does not exclude black men who are in prison, blind, disabled and retired. He also includes students 16 or older attending high school or college.
Needless to say, this is not how unemployment is usually computed. The most recent figure for black male unemployment in the city of Milwaukee by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey was 18.3 percent. The Urban League used a similar approach to determine the national rate was 15.8 percent in its call on President Barack Obama to target this problem for a program of federal aid.
The UW-Milwaukee Employment & Training Institute did a report criticizing Levine’s method of computing black male unemployment: “It promotes a stereotype of African-American males in Milwaukee as neither working nor even willing to look for employment … diverts attention of workforce investment planning away from the needs of active job seekers and underemployed workers to persons not in the workforce … [and] creates an unachievable (and undesirable) target for employment initiatives: seeking full employment of teenage students, disabled workers now receiving SSI and other income support, and retired workers on Social Security.”As Bruce Murphy asks, “Why exaggerate it to the point where the problem seems so drastic nothing can be done to solve it?”
Levine is like feminist “researchers” who define rape so broadly that it comes to seem a rather normal and common thing.
In the case of black unemployment, as with rape and pretty much any other issue you can name, making bogus assertions you think will promote your pet political agenda is not only dishonest, it’s likely to end up harming your agenda.