With the economy not quite at its strongest, finding work still remains a difficult task for some.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is still above 8.3 percent, with unemployment rate among blacks at 14.4 percent. In Philadelphia, there are four people per every job available. The unemployment rate is around 9 percent, with blacks and Hispanics making up a large chunk of that figure. Philly’s public sector has shed approximately 9,000 jobs over the past year, which used to be the bread and butter of most blacks. Of course the official unemployment numbers do not include the unemployable (i.e. those with criminal records) and those folks who have been out of work for more than a year, thus no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. When you factor in those numbers, the real figure is somewhere in the double digits.
Yet it seems that the fastest growing industry in the city are daycare facilities. Walk down any Philadelphia street within black and Hispanic neighborhoods and you will see a plethora of child care choices. They are in old renovated warehouses, storefronts and operating out of residential homes. Sometimes there are daycare facilities opened on the same block – in some cases across the street from each other. These facilities run from 8 hours, five days a week to up to 23 hours/7 days a week serving all sorts of children from infants all the way up to first graders.
Most ironically, most of these daycare facilities are housed in communities with high unemployment and unemployable rates. Which makes me ask: if the people ain’t working then why are there so many daycare facilities in low-income communities?
What got me thinking on this dichotomy was a film I had watched a couple of weeks ago called the Pruitt-Igoe Myth, which was about the failure of one of the first housing projects in the country. As explained in the documentary, the projects came about as a way to deal with the slums, which were occupied by poor working class folks, who mainly worked in downtown St. Louis, thus needed residency close to their employment. Believing that the slums deterred growth within the St. Louis, the city came up with a plan to tear down the slums and move the working poor to public housing. At first the projects were declared a victory in the war on poverty. However neither the city, nor the state, ever properly funded the project, thus basic maintenance within the facilities was ignored and eventually the high rises began to fall in disarray.
There is more to this story including how the Housing Development Act, which was used to fund the creation of the projects, also contributed to white flight out of the city, thus creating a further void in tax dollars, to support this project. However, the most interesting part of the film is an interview, with one former tenant of Priutt-Igoe, who recalled an incident, where the city’s welfare came to her slum and told her mother that they would give the family free housing plus food allotment but the only stipulation was that the kids’ fathers, couldn’t come. According to the film, this practice was commonplace for many families in the projects. And as many black intellectuals have long suspected, it was this practice of removing the father from the household for financial security, which has contributed to the destruction of black families, particularly those in the lower rungs of society.