Daily Video

May 11, 2009

African Americans Facing Higher Unemployment

With millions of Americans losing their jobs in the current recession, African American unemployment is reaching record levels.

In East St. Louis, Illinois, black unemployment is around 30 percent. This is not as bad as the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate in the African-American community was between 50 percent and 75 percent, but the city feels depressed, with shuttered fast food chains and blocks of empty buildings.

Economics Correspondent Paul Solman drives the neglected streets, trying to avoid the massive pot holes and broken traffic lights to see how the city is coping.

He finds the Tomorrow’s Builders YouthBuild Charter School where students have professional construction skills, but can’t find a job because nothing is being built.

This video also introduces the concept of “social capital” connections between people that help them find jobs and achieve economic mobility.


“If I can get minimum wage, I’d be happy. But there aren’t any jobs for a 63-year-old man, not in this area that I can get.” – Musician and painter Bobby Williams

“You’ve got to know somebody. If you don’t know nobody, there ain’t even no use to wasting your time, because that’s what the world’s about these days.” – Joeshawn Williams, student

“You even have to get connections at McDonald’s. I don’t know why, but it’s like that.” – Antonio Rhodes, student

“I wish I could make a new world in which these kids didn’t sit over on the dark side of the moon practically in terms of social connection, but there it is.” – Glenn Loury, Brown University

Warm Up Questions

1. What is unemployment?

2. How do you think the unemployment rate is different for different groups?

Discussion Questions

1. What parts of this report surprised you? What did you know already?

2. Do you think the students interviewed in this report would be better off if they left East St. Louis? Why or why not? What are the challenges to improving their situation?

3. What is “social capital”? What types of social capital exist in your community?

4. How do you think this recession will change a place like East St. Louis? How do you think it will change other parts of America?

Additional Resources

Transcript of this report

Help for East St. Louis Students

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