1 Jordan- Zachery 1 Workforce Development as Anti-Poverty Strategy: Targeting Women of Color in Urban Rhode Island Prepared for University of Rhode Island State of Urban Rhode Island: Assets and Opportunities Julia S. Jordan-Zachery Professor of Political Science Director of Black Studies Providence College
2 Introduction Rhode Island currently finds itself confronting a changing workforce. Among White ethnics, the workforce is decreasing as a result of aging among this population and a decrease in population size. Simultaneously, the state is experiencing an increase among its racial population primarily as a result of increases among Latinos. These changes are being played out across the state; however, the state s urban areas are home to the largest percentage of minority residents (non-white residents account for more than 60.0% of the population in Providence, 40.0% in Pawtucket, and 20.0% in Woonsocket (based on the American Community Survey s (ACS) three-year estimate for cities over 20,000 in population). These demographic shifts can prove to be an asset for the state of Rhode Island; however, it is imperative that policy-makers respond proactively and with a sensitivity to the needs of minoritized communities. One area that should be addressed by policy makers is workforce development programs targeting these populations. Historically, U.S. workforce development policies and programs target lowincome and undereducated individuals with the goal of enhancing their employability, learning potential and overall well-being. Racial minorities, particularly low-skilled workers residing in areas with few employment opportunities, are often the targets of such programs; however, policy makers tend to view potential workforce development participants as homogenous, often ignoring differences both within and between groups. For example, programs targeting women tend to treat all women as the same. Such programs pay little to no attention to the reality that working women of color have a different experience with the labor market than women as a whole. Further, workforce development tends to be treated as separate and distinct from race-gender equity policies and programs. Given the ongoing demographic shifts in both the U.S. and in Rhode Island, workforce development programs ought to pay attention to ways race-gender affects the employment sector. In light of current economic and demographic shifts in Rhode Island, workforce development efforts should be connected to equity policies in an attempt to make long-term, sustainable and living wage jobs more accessible. This report focuses on the economic well-being of women of color residing in Rhode Island s urban communities and the imperative that the state engage simultaneously in workforce development and race-gender equity to ensure that this population is successfully integrated into the Rhode Island economy. More specifically, the report highlights how race-gender structures inform the economic vulnerability these programs purport to address. By the year 2050, it is projected that women of color will represent 53 percent of the female population in the US (Ahmad & Iverson, 2013, p. 1). The implications of this demographic shift will be felt in a number of areas, both economic and political. Consequently, the overall well-being of this demographic group has implications for families, communities, and the nation as a whole. To meet the economic changes faced by Rhode Island, the examination of the unique challenges faced by women of color in the labor force is warranted.
3 Jordan- Zachery 2 This study identifies consistent patterns in Rhode Island s urban areas: Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Woonsocket, where there are higher concentrations of ethnic and racial minority residents, joblessness and poverty among female-headed households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau three-year American Community Survey, the percentage of people living below the poverty line for these areas are: Central Falls 30.7 percent, Pawtucket 19.3 percent, Providence, 29 percent, West Warwick 15.2 percent, and Woonsocket 25.8 percent. In terms of femaleheaded households, living below the poverty line ( ), the rates were as follows: Pawtucket 32.8 percent, Providence 45.3 percent, and Woonsocket 47.9 percent. Statewide, the overall rate of poverty among racial and ethnic minority families is 16.2 percent, but in these areas it is dramatically greater: 38.6 percent among Blacks/African Americans, 49.7 percent among American Indian/Alaska Natives, and 49 percent among Hispanics/Latinos. Furthermore, over time, poverty rates have increased among these groups. Given these trends, Rhode Island must confront how to integrate this people of color in general and women of color specifically into the evolving technologically-based economy. This intersection of poverty, race and gender demonstrates that it is critical for Rhode Island to pay particular attention to how race-gender influences employability and access to employment if there is hope to improve the overall economic standing of the state. The increasing poverty among these populations requires that the state strategically support a range of social programs that address problems stemming from poverty and joblessness, particularly workforce development. By focusing on economic security for vulnerable families, the state would be better able to counteract many of poverty s negative effects. By improving the skill sets and employability of these vulnerable women and their families, the state of Rhode Island will be better situated to address the troubling pattern of joblessness in urban communities and thereby stabilize these communities and the larger Rhode Island community and economy. The challenge of mounting a successful workforce development program targeting women of color is multifaceted and complex, as it is compounded by the economic conditions of their communities and race-gender discrimination faced by many women. One particular challenge faced by women of color, particularly poor women of color, relates to spatial mismatch where they are located relative to where jobs are located. These women tend to reside in communities with significant job shortages. The limited access to jobs in their communities often requires that women leave the communities to access jobs primarily located in suburban areas. This can prove difficult for a number of reasons, one of which is the challenge of securing reliable and costeffective transportation (Gordon, Kumar & Richardson, 1989) and childcare (Connelly & Kimmel, 2003). Other employment related barriers include but are not limited to racegender discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment. In this paper I focus primarily on the issue of spatial mismatch and wage discrimination to show the challenges faced by women of color, and specifically poor women of color who reside in urban communities, drawing on data from national and local studies, from state administrative sources, and from the Census that speaks to the
4 Jordan- Zachery 3 employment challenges faced by women of color both in the U.S. and in Rhode Island. Section I provide a portrait of women of color. Section II outlines demographic shifts currently occurring in Rhode Island and pays particular attention to the growing immigrant population. Section III addresses the changing nature of labor in Rhode Island with a focus on spatial and skills issues relevant to minority communities. Section IV discusses residential segregation and its impact on the economic security of urban residents. Section V explores how women of color experience economic security and how their social location influences their overall well-being and that of their families. Section VI concludes the paper by offering a brief summary of the value of integrating workforce development and race-gender equity policies. Section I: Portrait of Women of Color Minimal data exist speaking to the specific experiences of women of color in Rhode Island. While there is extensive data, there is a tendency to focus on collecting information separately for race/ethnic groups and gender identified groups. Consequently, data tends not to focus on those populations that are simultaneously raced and gendered for example, black women. Thus, this portrait of women of color relies more so on national data. The trends seen at the national level mirror many of the trends among this population in Rhode Island. A 2012 report on the state of women of color in the United States asserts, To be sure, women of color have made incredible strides in educational attainment and in the workplace especially in entrepreneurship yet their earnings and net wealth still pale in comparison to white women (Kerby, 2012, p.1). This report further informs us that women of color tend to be concentrated in low-wage service-sector jobs primarily. Women of color also experience pay differentials. Relative to white males, Black women and Latinas earn 70 cents and 61 cents respectively. Finally, women of color are more likely to experience lower median weekly earnings, higher rates of unemployment and poverty (Kerby, 2012). Recent data suggest Rhode Island s women of color face similar challenges as those faced by women of color at the national level. Consider that unemployment is concentrated in the areas in which women of color disproportionately reside Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket. For the period the unemployment rate for women 16 years and over in the labor force was as follows: 10.2 percent Central Falls; 9.9 percent Pawtucket; percent Providence; 9.1 percent West Warwick; 8.3 percent Woonsocket. In most of these municipalities, the unemployment rate among this group exceeded the unemployment rate at the state level, which averaged 8.7 percent (Rhode Island Community Profiles). Unemployment disproportionately affects people of color across educational levels. For example college graduates of color (with a BA and higher) experience unemployment at 3.5 percentage points higher in comparison to White ethnics (PolicyLink, 2013, p. 40). Comparisons between and within race and gender categories show that at nearly every education level, Rhode Island s women of color face the highest unemployment and earn the least compared with white women and men of all races/ethnicities (PolicyLink, 2013, p. 41).
5 Jordan- Zachery 4 Women of color in Rhode Island are also disproportionately represented among solo-parenting households and, more specifically, among poor solo-parenting households. In 2012, it was estimated that 51 percent of low-income working families are soloparented by women (Povich, Roberts & Mather, ). In the five urban communities, a substantial percentage of children under the age of 18 resided in soloparent households (See Table 1). Among children 18 years and younger who reside in solo-parenting households, a substantial number of them are living in areas with higher concentration of poverty; they are also more likely to be Latino or Black and are more likely to be living in female-headed households. Table 1: Children s Living Arrangements, 2010, % of children under age 18 City Living in Households Children Living in Single Parent families N N % Rhode Island 223,144 68,138 31% Central Falls 5,634 2,744 49% Pawtucket 16,550 7,118 43% Providence 41,497 19,136 46% West Warwick 5,746 1,990 35% Woonsocket 9,82 4,533 46% Source: These data should impact the design of workforce development programs targeting this group. Research has identified a number of factors that contribute to the lived experiences of these women and their children. Many of these factors, including for example higher rates of incarceration of the men of the communities, are beyond the scope of this report. One factor, which is intimately linked to workforce development, is formal educational attainment. Among solo-parenting households, many of which are headed by women of color, 50 percent had no post-secondary education. As a result of a number of factors, including the concentration of poverty, limited formal education, limited access to jobs, and institutionalized race-gender oppressive structures, many of these women are in a position where they cannot financially support their families. It is estimated that it costs a single-parent family with two young children $51,492 a year to pay basic living expenses, including housing, food, health care, child care, transportation, and other miscellaneous items. This family would need an annual income of $59,083 to meet this budget without government subsidies (The Economic Progress Institute, 2014). With the exception of West Warwick, the median family income in the five cities lies below the minimum income amount needed to support the household structure common among Rhode Island s women of color; and furthermore, these levels have declined in the past decade, in some cases sharply (see Table 2).
6 Jordan- Zachery 5 Table 2: Median Family Income, RI, City 1999 Median Family Income for families with children under age 18 (Adjusted for 2013 Dollars) Rhode Island $70,681 $67,904 Central Falls $30,768 $28,953 Pawtucket $46,921 $41,421 Providence $34,316 $33,154 West Warwick $58,480 $53,558 Woonsocket $48,183 $31,307 Source: Kids Count (2015) Economic Well-Being. *Estimates with lower, acceptable margins of error Median Family Income for Families with children under age 18* Section II: Demographic Snapshot A brief overview of some of the demographic shifts occurring in Rhode Island will help place the lived experiences of women of color not simply within the areas they tend to be concentrated but also in the context of the larger state. The demographic trends suggest the following: Rhode Island is experiencing an overall population decline or slow population growth. Between 2000 and 2010 the rate of population growth was 0.04 percent the lowest of all New England states. In comparison, New Hampshire had a rate of growth of 6.5 percent and the U.S overall had a rate of growth of 9.7 percent (U.S. Census). Population decline is mitigated by increases among immigrant populations (U.S Census). As of 2010, immigrants account for 12.9 percent of Rhode Island s population (U.S. Census). Approximately 33 percent of low-income children have one or more foreign-born parents (U.S. Census). It is estimated that more than 20 percent of the population speaks a language other than English within the home (Rhode Island State Data Center, 2013). A substantial number of Rhode Island s immigrant population, and those that speak a foreign language, reside in urban communities. Specifically, they reside in Central Falls (over 33 percent), Pawtucket (23 percent), and Providence (25 percent) (U.S. Census, 2010). Rhode Island s foreign-born population comes primarily from Latin and South America. In 1990, 22 percent of foreign-born residents migrated from Latin and South America. In 2012, 43 percent of foreign-born residents came from Latin and South America (Migration Policy Institute). The Center for American Progress lists Rhode Island as among 10 states where the population is projected to be over 40 percent minority by 2060 (Teixeira, Frey & Griffin, 2015). It is also expected that Rhode Island will continue to experience declines
7 Jordan- Zachery 6 among working-class White ethnics, whose proportion of the population decreased 17 percent between 1980 and Rhode Island has seen relatively small population growth between (from 947,000 to 1,053,000). Much of the population growth is attributed to the growth of the Latino population (44 percent) along with increases among African Americans and Asians (23 and 28 percent respectively). Between , the percentage of the non-white population increased from 7 to 24 percent (U.S. Census). In the near future, people of color are expected to be in the majority in Providence County, home to the five urban communities comprising this study. Section III: Rhode Island s Changing Economy and Resulting Challenges Not only is Rhode Island experiencing a demographic shift, but is faced with the challenge of an economy shifting away from manufacturing into more service-oriented jobs. According to Mazze and Edinaldo (2013), the state population is not sufficiently trained to take these emerging jobs. Most of the new jobs created in Rhode Island from 2014 to 2017 will be in construction, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, education and health services and high-tech (in Rhode Island many of these industries continue to be male-dominated). The forecast indicates that there will be little or no growth in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, information services and government employment (n.p.). Unemployment and resulting poverty are deep and persistent problems in the urban areas of Rhode Island. As of April 2015, Rhode Island s unemployment rate was 6.1%--the lowest it has been in a number of years, yet rates in four of the five urban areas were higher: in Central Falls 7.0 percent, Woonsocket 7.6 percent, Pawtucket and Providence both 6.6 percent (RI Department of Labor and Training, 2015). Patterns of job growth have been higher in non-urban areas, more than triple that of urban communities. Between 1992 and 2002, non-urban areas experienced a 30% increase in job growth in comparison; urban communities experienced a 7.7% rate of growth (Rhode Island Housing, n.d.). Since 2005, Rhode Island s median household income grew by 8.2%. However, as noted, household income in the urban core communities is among the lowest in the state (U.S. Census). Section IV: Residential Segregation As indicated in Figure 1, there continue to be patterns of residential segregation, at the state level, along race and/or ethnicity. Between 1990 and 2010 there has been a lessening of segregation between White ethnics and people of color, particularly Latinos (who may be of any race). Blacks/African Americans continue to experience the highest rates of segregation in 2010 (see figure 1). The current demographic residential patterns show the proportion of Rhode Island s racial and ethnic groups, particularly African- Americans and Latinos, who are concentrated in urban communities in Rhode Island particularly in Central Falls, Pawtucket Providence and Woonsocket.
8 Jordan- Zachery 7 Figure 1: Segregation from Whites, Source: Census Bureau Residential segregation is both influenced by and influences economic inequality along racial and gender lines. Racial residential segregation, as seen in Rhode Island, tends to result in spatial mismatch between urban inner-city neighborhoods, which tend to be disproportionately populated by minorities, and the outlying suburbs where the likelihood of accessing a job is increased (see Holzer & Ihlanfeldt, 1996; Stoll, Holzer & Ihlanfeldt, 2000). Spatial mismatch, in conjunction with geographic isolation, increases workers costs in a number of ways. Starting with the initial job search, workers who are isolated from jobs tend to have increased costs in terms of time spent outside the community and the actual costs of travel. Extant research shows that Blacks and Latinos are less likely than Whites to have access to automobiles. This racialized differences in terms of access to cars is further exaggerated for those with less formal education. (Holzer, Ihlanfeldt & Sjoquist, 1994; Raphael & Stoll, 2001). Consequently, racialized populations with relatively less formal education face more challenges and increased costs in terms of accessing jobs, particularly jobs outside of their communities. As a result of spatial mismatch and skill mismatch women of color are not in a position to access many low-wage jobs (see Stoll, Holzer, & Ihlanfeldt, 2000), much less the higher paying jobs that might move them out of poverty. Section V: Women of Color: Economic Security and Well-being As of 2010, 13.1 percent of women in the workforce were Black, 4.7 percent were Asian, and 12.8 percent were Latina. Increasingly, these women of color are the primary
9 Jordan- Zachery 8 financial supporters of their families 53.3 percent of Black households and 40.1 percent of Latino household (Kerby, 2012). While some progress has been made over the past two decades, race-gender employment gaps have worsened as a result of the economic downturn. African Americans/Blacks and Latinos, relative to White ethnics and people of Asian descent, face higher rates of unemployment. For example, as reported by Policy Link (2013, p. 31) Latino unemployment is twice the rate of White unemployment (12 percent compared with 5.7 percent). At the national level, Kerby (2012) details the difference in unemployment rates among women of color. As of March 2013, the unemployment rates, of Black and Latina women were 12.2 percent and 9.3 percent respectively. For White women, the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. People of color, and women of color specifically, tend to be concentrated in low-opportunity jobs in comparison to White ethnics. It is estimated, that at the national level, single women account for 43 percent of the low-wage workforce (nearly double their share in the overall workforce 23%). Among African American women, they account for 12 percent of the low-wage workforce double that of their overall workforce (National Women s Law Center, 2014, p. 2). In addition to the race-gender employment gap, women of color also experience a wage gap. This wage gap is experienced not only between genders but also between and within races. In Rhode Island, a woman who holds a full-time job is paid, on average, $41,074 per year while a man who holds a full-time job is paid $50,975 per year. This means that women in Rhode Island are paid 81 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly wage gap of $9,901 between men and women who work full time in the state (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2014, p. 1) National data tells us that On average, African American women are paid 64 cents and Latinas are paid just 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men (National Partnership for Women & Families, 2014, p. 1). It is expected that women of color in Rhode Island experience similar pay inequality. The wage gap, for the most part, is explained as a result of the differences in occupations between men and women and between racial groups (see Center for Research & Policy, 2013). Women in Rhode Island tend to be concentrated in economic sectors such as social services and care. These are sectors that tend to pay less and provide fewer benefits in comparison to jobs such as plumbers and mechanics where men tend to be concentrated (Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, 2009). Women of color also experience job segmentation. A recent study suggests that Black women and Latinas are underrepresented in management positions. Instead, these women commonly work in the service industry (Kerby, 2012). Given Rhode Island s experiences with workforce segmentation of women in general, we can presume that women of color in Rhode Island experience similar job segmentation (see Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training, 2009). Another factor contributing to the pay differentials between men and women relates to caretaker responsibilities. Workers, primarily women, who are faced with family care responsibilities, tend to withdraw from the labor force (Kerby, 2012). Women of color are disproportionately affected since they tend to be the primary
10 Jordan- Zachery 9 caretakers of their families. Over their lifetime, women of color who withdraw from the labor force experience lower wages (if only in the short term) which then heightens their economic vulnerability (Kerby, 2012). The wage gap and the labor force segmentation have both short and long term implications. Many of these implications are more pronounced for women of color as individuals and for their families and communities. Pay differentials strain community resources and result in less money for housing, education, health care, and food. It is estimated than an African American woman working full time, on average loses the equivalent of 118 weeks of food each year due to the wage gap. Among Latinas, it is estimated that the loss is 154 weeks worth of food (Kerby 2012, n.p). Conclusion A number of factors contribute to the economic vulnerability faced by women of color in Rhode Island. As Cherry and Gatta (2014, p. 102) argue, traditional workforce development programs contribute to the problem because training programs have reinforced occupational segregation, funneling more women into lower-paying occupations. To address this economic vulnerability, employment is a critical link between economic growth and poverty reduction. Thus, Rhode Island should engage in workforce development programs that enhance the income earning opportunities for poor women of color, either through wage employment or self-employment, particularly in the technology-based occupations emerging in the new economy. Additionally, the state should also pay attention to not simply training women to take available jobs, but also to race-gender equity policies, as discrimination influences how women are treated in the formal labor force. Programs linking workforce development and race-gender equity are important for raising incomes and overcoming poverty among this group. Connecting these issues would allow the state to ensure that citizens have access to long-term, sustainable and living wage jobs, regardless of race and gender. Women of color in urban communities locally, nationally, and globally experience economic strain (Kalper & van der Ree, 2006). Often the experiences of women of color with the labor market are a function of the intersection of their gender, class and race. Thus, women of color tend to experience larger wage gaps in comparison to their white female counterparts (PolicyLink, n.d.). Additionally, the problem of joblessness has been and remains a persistent problem for people of color in general and specifically women of color residing in urban communities. Given wage disparities and persistent unemployment, women of color in urban areas in Rhode Island tend to be overrepresented among the poor (PolicyLink, n.d.). If urban areas are to remain economically competitive, they must more fully integrate these women into the labor force. Given women of color s experiences with the labor force and poverty, it is important that workforce development programs target this population. Such targeting should center the intersection of gender, race, class, and even citizenship status as a means of identifying the assets and opportunities among this population. Doing such will help to lessen the wage gap and ultimately poverty experienced by women of color in the region and as a result enhance the regional economic competitiveness of the state.
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