As Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn duke it out in commercials over wine clubs, nursing homes, and wife beaters on the street, here’s a troubling statistic that you probably won’t hear about this election cycle: Fewer than 48 percent of civilian, non-institutionalized African-American men in Illinois are employed.
That makes the employment rate for black men in Illinois the lowest in the Midwest.
In fact, of the 37 states and D.C. that have employment estimates for black men, only three states have lower employment rates than the Land of Lincoln: Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. That’s not good company when you’re talking about labor statistics.
African-American men were hit hardest by the recession in Illinois. In 2006, before the recession hit, black male employment was at almost 58 percent, on par with employment among white women, and higher than the rates for both African-American women and Hispanic women.
By 2011, after the recession but before the recovery started to increase job rates, black male employment in the state bottomed out at 45 percent, lower than any other group. Since then, employment rates have bounced back a little bit, but employment for black men is still 10 percentage points lower than it was in 2006.
What happened? Conservatives will say the problem is Illinois’ high income taxes and the highest minimum wage in the region. Liberals will tell you the problem is higher rates of school discipline for black youth and the barriers to employment for black men with a criminal record.
But Bruce Rauner and Pat Quinn probably won’t tell you anything. They’re too busy comparing one another to indicted former governors or questioning one another’s math acumen.