Wednesday, January 02, 2019

What Is The Cause Of Her Predicament?

You have to believe that a highly-educated woman in what is just about the best economic conditions on record could get a job better than this, don't you? 
When the temp agency called to tell me that there was a full-time custodial position open over at a 24-hour facility in San Marcos, Texas, I was both relieved and, to be honest, a little bit indignant. I was going to be able to eat this week, but after having spent the past 14 years of my life getting a bachelor’s degree in English, getting a master’s degree in creative writing, and starting my own entertainment company, I was going to be a janitor. 
That last sentence tells me she's leaving something out.  What she left out of that sentence was not at all what I was thinking, and she put it in the next sentence:
I must have missed the memo: A 2014 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research revealed that an incredible 55.9 percent of black recent college graduates were “underemployed” and working in a position that didn’t require a four-year college degree. 
Of course, it's racism!  Can't have anything to do with any choices she's made, it's raaaaaaacism.
Today, black women are among the most-educated groups in the country. We’re the only demographic of women who own more businesses than our male peers. But of course that does not always mean we are more successful. A 2016 survey from Consumer Finances shows that degrees for black women are not translating into wealth within our communities. Too many factors outside of higher education are leaving black women jobless and in debt. Upward mobility, a common desire among millennials, is still often thwarted by discrimination in the labor market. 
I want evidence of discrimination.  I mean, she had her own business.  That she didn't make enough money at it can't be laid at the feed of "discrimination in the labor market".  As the owner, she's not "labor".
I threw myself into a business plan, applied to art grants and startup-accelerator programs, and even joined an innovative female-owned co-working space, Splash Coworking. I created an artist-in-residence program, facilitating the artist-development initiative through a monthly event series I curated. Those first three months were a crash course in organization, self-care, branding, paperwork filing, and functioning on minimal sleep. I took all the knowledge I had gained throughout my college career and threw it into my business. But while the U.S. Census Bureau states that black-owned businesses like mine are on the rise—an estimated 34.5 percent increase from 2007–12—the rate of success overall for black-owned small businesses in their first two years is still debilitatingly low. It felt like I was losing before I even got started. 
Again, I don't see that as "discrimination in the labor market".  Do you know who owns the businesses you frequent?  Do you refuse to shop at businesses that are owned by people with a different skin color than you have?  Yeah, me either.  What would a more logical explanation be?  That perhaps some of these businesses don't fill enough of a need in the marketplace to be viable?  That's what Occam's Razor tells me.  But it's easier to lay the blame for your own failures on an external locus.

I hope she does better in life.  I hope she's able to move up the economic ladder as time goes on--just as I have.  But she's going to have a hard time doing that unless she starts accepting some responsibility for her own decisions and her own life.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes the answer is complicated. Black people do face discrimination. Studies have shown that the same resume will lead to an interview if it has a white sounding name on it while the identical resume with a black sounding name will not. There is similar evidence for discrimination in loans and housing.

On the other hand, very few people of any race are able to make a living in writing and the arts. Bottom line, racism does exist but it's also true that she needs to pursue a more realistic career choice.

Mike Thiac said...

I admire men and women who start businesses and are successful. If only for the fact the are likely to fail. The stats:

...20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. Finally, 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business...

Perhaps it's nothing more than her being one of the many small businesses that fail. No, can't be that, can it?

lgm said...

She is refusing to admit that the percentage of all college students who are underemployed after grad is pretty high..about 43%. 56% vs 43%..probably not a statistically significant difference due to the small absolute numbers of the latter but we'll have to let the statisticians sort that out. Close enough I wouldn't call it discrimination; more likely degree choice, job choice, plus ability to relocate. The job choice in this case sounds like she didn't have the business located in the right area to make it successful.

Since she has a college ed and she is being offered janitorial, she's been looking for awhile and the unemployment office at this point wants her to take an eating money job. Welcome to the real world. Alexander Graham Bell, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford...plenty of people in a variety of occupations have an eating money job while they develop their professional interests or find their next professional opportunity. A college degree is a foot in the door, not a guarantee of wealth.

Ellen K said...

She chose an industry that is highly competitive and lives in an area where there are many other large scale producers who can do all the things she was able to do more quickly and for lower costs. This is not an issue of race, religion or gender preference, this is something to do with the ability to turn a job quickly and a small office simply cannot compete. I hear this kind of thing all the time. College recruiters mislead kids and tell them to invest in themselves in programs that are probably not going to work out the way they plan. Case in point, I had a student who wanted to go into animation, but she didn't want to learn the diverse skills that would make her more marketable. As a result, she knows how to do one thing well and is not finding work. She works as a barista. I understand the writer's frustration, my son who majored in history has the same type of angst. He has repeatedly told me that the money spent on tuition would have been better spent teaching him how to weld, run electrics or become a machinist.