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Innovating Youth Employment Policies and Programs to Create Workforce


The unemployment of the youth is a pressing social and economic problem that causes strain for both developed and developing countries. Even though the number of unemployed young people around the world exceeds 70 million based on the United Nations findings, the issue does not receive the attention needed. Moreover, the severity of the problem is understated because many young people are underemployed.

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The importance of employment among the youth, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds and diverse populations, is associated with the capacity to sustain one’s livelihood and avoid social exclusion. Focusing on efforts to prevent unemployment and underemployment within the target population could have helped reverse the trend of social exclusion and create an active and productive workforce that would contribute to the promotion of positive social integration.

When emphasizing a particular population that is affected by the issue of employment, it is imperative to mention Black males and other members of diverse urban environments experience severe limitations associated with unemployment. The combination of personal, emotional, family, socio-environmental, and school-associated factors exasperates the severity of unemployment. Considering the mentioned factors will provide an all-encompassing look on the barriers preventing the target group from accessing employment opportunities. Therefore, the current study focuses on individuals of diverse backgrounds residing in urban settings as the population of concern for the policy proposal.

Policies targeting the issue may not only cover the educational and social limitations but also help in addressing underlying psychological issues that youth males experience at childhood. Creating a multi-dimensional workforce is expected to benefit not only the economy but also separate organizations that need to diversify their staff to welcome new ideas and increase productivity.

Personal and Emotional Factors

Considering the impact of personal and emotional factors as either drivers or barriers to creating workforce placements for young people implies the analysis of specific characteristics influencing individual choices and opportunities. When discussing the target population of Black males, it is imperative to evaluate the influences that can impact personal decisions. According to Harper, Terry, and Twiggs (2009), young Black males may often require support from positive role models to facilitate self-efficacy. Having an overall positive perception of one’s abilities and opportunities is expected to increase confidence when seeking out employment.

Since African-American males “are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to their White counterparts,” viewing them from an intersectional perspective is imperative because of the effect on employment and academic achievement (Harper et al., 2009, p. 217). Thus, supports and reinforcements for encouraging self-efficacious behaviors among the target group should imply programs that are inclusive and facilitate the participation of young Black males specifically.

To help African-American males to get access to work opportunities, policymakers should put in place empowerment programs. As mentioned by Jennings (2014), entrepreneurial and micro-enterprise programs can have a positive impact on the psychosocial and economic well-being of young men. Black men have shown to specifically require help and support in such personal factors as increased autonomy, risk avoidance, and engagement (Jennings, 2014). When developing support programs for the target population, policymakers and educators should pay attention to the problem associated with the lack of their utilization among US minority youth.

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Despite the positive intentions of support programs to eliminate the influence of race within the personal and emotional factors, it remains to play a significant role in preventing educational and employment opportunities. The Briggs (2017) study focusing on Caribbean Black youth found that there were counter-narratives embedded into the perpetuation of racial biases. The stereotyping prevented the target group from being included in employment and educational opportunities, which also had an impact on personal and emotional well-being.

Further studies on the effects of stereotyping on the mentioned opportunities of Black males should consider the physical, psychological, and emotional factors (Williams & Mohammed, 2009). Furthermore, the use of White Supremacy frameworks in the analysis of potential work and learning opportunities can shed light on the diverse experiences of Black males.

Personal and emotional barriers to accessing employment opportunities are also connected to excessive stereotyping of by employers. According to Philips, Dumas, and Rothbard (2018) for Harvard Business Review, African-American employees are usually afraid of opening up about their experiences to potential co-workers or employers because of possible stereotyping. However, a positive look at employment opportunities requires considering the counter-stereotyping identity of Black individuals, starting from college.

Harpalani (2017), found that high-achieving Black students succeeded academically even though they encountered stereotypes on their intellectual abilities. This means that the intellectual abilities of African-American students should not be influenced by the perception of their racial identity and experiences. Helping such individuals defy racial stereotypes through academic motivation and the formation of identity that does not consider race.

The lack of employment opportunities among the target population can negatively impact mental health and the overall well-being of young Black males. A report prepared by Public Interest Government Relations Office (2018) for the American Psychological Association found that unemployment, in combination with other social barriers that Black Americans face, has an adverse effect on emotional well-being.

The research showed that emotional health issues and job insecurity were closely related, leading to the emergence of further complications such as depression and anxiety, both of which are exacerbated in males. Policymakers should pay special attention to the links between mental health and unemployment to develop strategies that will not only provide work opportunities but also address the psychological implications of having no work.

The lack of work among African-Americans increases the risk of alcohol abuse, suicide, mental health condition, depression, and smoking. Unemployment in males is the highest for the Black population, when compared to White, Asian, and Hispanic counterparts (Public Interest Government Relations Office, 2018). Because of this, it becomes harder for the population to seek and access employment as bad habits and mental health complications prevent them from being productive and reliable workers. Large numbers of psychosocial obstacles predispose the population to mental health problems (Behere, Basnet, & Campbell, 2017).

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When transitioning to adulthood, Black males :can become increasingly aware of their restricted opportunities, which creates high-stress levels” (Public Interest Government Relations Office, 2018, p. 3). The emotional well-being of Black males is also affected by prejudice and discrimination, which limits their abilities to accumulate educational, social, personal, and financial material.

Understanding the psychological challenges that Black males face as early as adolescence is essential for the current discussion. The study by Lozada, Jagers, Smith, Banales, and Hope (2016) revealed important considerations regarding the connection between social behaviors and individual well-being. When considering their social position and relationships with other members of society, Black male teenagersc may take into account the race to which they belong, their individual feelings about the racial group, as well as the experience of discrimination for minority groups. This shows that the personal identity of the target group is closely related to their perceptions of race.

Family Factors

Family factors influence employment opportunities among Black males because they represent large systems with multiple contributing components. Such factors include the composition of households, the education and employment of parents, as well as parent-child relationships. Negative aspects existing within the mentioned factors have the potential of limiting young Black males from accessing work opportunities and being successful. The report by Winship, Reeves, and Guyot (2018) for Brookings Institution studied the inheritance of Black poverty as related to family factors. The research found that there was an intergenerational cycle of poverty among Black males, which called from the transformation of economic outcomes, and family dynamics played essential roles.

Relevant research pertaining to Black family dynamics was conducted by Ruggles (1994), who focused on the history of African-American family structures. Despite being dated, the article is valuable for understanding the influence of family factors on children’s future and well-being. Ruggles (1994) distinguishes two specific characteristics of Black families, which include the higher number of single parents and residence in extended families.

The scholar also underlines the role of slavery in shaping family structures in the long-run. As a consequence of the devastating occurrence in African-Americans’ lives, families have become disorganized and unstable. Furthermore, the author notes that the historic disadvantage of Black Americans was not the result of parenting by a single mother or father but rather the cause of the latter.

The findings by Ruggles (1994) point to the fact that children are subjected to complex living arrangements that result from imbalanced families. The potential opportunities for employment among Black males who live in two-parent households, would, thus, differ from those who lived with one parent. This means that developing support programs for target populations should involve the measurement of children’s living arrangements. By doing so, it is possible to identify single-parent households that would require the most support. Parental absence, as well as imbalanced relationships within families, making it more complicated for young people to access education and work opportunities.

The mentioned findings point to the fact that parents would have a significant impact on children’s long-term development. Parents are the first teachers, and they should be bringing up their children in supportive and loving environments, regardless of the family structure. Nevertheless, family poverty is a significant issue that may exacerbate the problem of inadequate school preparedness. African-American children who live in single-mother households make up the poorest demographic group in the US (Ruggles, 1994).

Despite this, the percentage of Black babies that are being born out of wedlock exceeds 70%, which points to a severe family crisis that would ultimately influence the preparedness of children for future life as adults (Ruggles, 1994). Furthermore, family issues could adversely impact the mental health of children. For example, maternal depression, which often occurs when single mothers have to work a lot to meet the financial obligations of their families, can affect the mental well-being of children.

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The issue is not only a matter of maternal bonding but also of academic preparation. This means that children whose mothers do not engage with them due to mental health issues are more likely to be anxious themselves, have shorter attention spans, and related poorly to others. This means that poor households with single mothers require the most support because they are often unable to support their children emotionally, which leads to further problems at school.

According to Winship et al. (2018), married men, if other things are equal, usually earned more because of the increased responsibility to provide economically for their families and children. However, one should also consider the high numbers of Black children raised in poor households as well as one-parent households. An important study regarding family dynamics and parental makeup was conducted by Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, and Bryant (2014), who focused on the issue of Black women being single.

The scholars found that Black women remained unmarried even after having children because of low-income family dynamics with male partners, which led to them raising kids on their own. Such a family makeup contributes to the limited opportunities for education and employment of children raised in one-parent households. Such aspects as parents’ gender relations, marriage socialization and education, as well as individual development, must be considered concerning family factors that prevent Black males from getting access to education and employment.

Being from a low-income background, young Black males cannot always get pre-employment training and education due to financial limitations. The report by Shierholz, Davis, and Kimball (2014) for Economic Policy Institute revealed that around a fifth of recent high school graduates was neither enrolled in further education nor employed. Such a large population of young people lives in poor conditions, with their families being rarely able to provide the support needed.

The ramifications for young Black males are especially dire because even in “good years,” they were already removed from the workforce in disproportionately high numbers (para. 16). Today, as the job market continues getting smaller, with wages falling, Black males are at even higher risk of being unemployed because both race and gender shape the modern workforce. The absence of initial support systems reinforced by families makes it harder for young African-American men to deal with unemployment, which exasperates the problem further.

Social and Environmental Factors

The influence of social and environmental factors is necessary to consider because they can also impact the emergence of barriers or facilitators for employment opportunities. These factors include the economic standing, civic, community, and school-based activities, the density of the population, and the peculiarities of the juvenile justice system. The study by Kaufman and Rosenbaum (1991) is important to mention because the researchers focused on employment and education opportunities among Black young people who moved to white suburban areas from low-income neighborhoods.

Housing integration should be considered because the living circumstances can influence the way in which young people engage in education and subsequent work opportunities. The researchers found that Black youth who moved to the suburbs from urban areas managed to overcome the barrier of racism and high expectations, performing better compared to their suburban peers (Kaufman & Rosenbaum, 1991).

Such students were also more likely to get enrolled in higher education institutions, which provided them with more work opportunities. These findings are imperative to consider because they show that when Black young people are provided with proper tools and positive environments, they will use such advantages to become more successful (Kaufman & Rosenbaum, 1991). Thus, the development of support programs for young Black males should include the assessment of the socio-environmental factors and their impact on the abilities and opportunities of populations. The provision of positive settings and tools that they can use can become a significant step to programs’ and policies’ success.

Depending on the racial composition of urban areas in which Black males live, it is also possible to make forecasts regarding the potential success in accessing employment opportunities. The research by McCreary, England, and Farkas (1989) is valuable when considering the issue because it examined the influence of the racial makeup on employment probabilities. According to the scholars, the likelihood of young Black males getting work is linked to them living in a city with higher percentages of African-American men (up to 50%) (McCreary et al., 1989).

Furthermore, 50% and a higher rate of Black males in a city represent more significant opportunities for employment because of the increase of African-American business owners (McCreary et al., 1989). These findings suggest that when young men live in an urban area with a racial composition that matches their race, they will have more opportunities for employment because the problem of racism does not come into play.

Apart from the racial makeup of urban areas that influence the development of young Black males, it is also vital to consider poverty as an essential socio-environmental factor that would impact the group’s well-being. In many American communities today, the circumstances associated with poverty and disadvantage limit the potential of young Black boys in the future. Parents have reported insecurity about providing food for their families, which is concerning for the well-being of children (ETS, 2011). Black boys who are born into poverty are more likely to have issues with accessing healthcare services, less likely to attend high-quality early childcare, as well as participate in inferior neighborhood schools that may not be as effective as necessary in terms of providing education to students.

Furthermore, there are areas in which Black Americans are segregated in communities limited to minorities, which means that both boys and girls are more likely to attend school with children of color. This results in a social and racial stratification of boys throughout their lifetime (ETS, 2011). Racial segregation and the ideologies that support it may lead to a greater occurrence of violence, poor physical and mental health, substance abuse, as well as subsequently, unemployment and underemployment. Therefore, segregation is not the answer to creating nurturing and positive environments for Black boys to develop as individuals and become successful in life.

The findings presented above call for the development of community-sponsored programs that would facilitate the support of Black children living in the disadvantaged household. Such programs can involve the development of small and private pre-school setting serving the specific interests of young learners. Encouraging inter-community collaboration to raise the expectations of learning as well as facilitate early reading and math skills can increase the engagement of families into children’s learning (ETS, 2011).

Importantly, the participation of educators is essential in such programs because parents alone may not be equipped with the skills and knowledge to teach their children. The guidance of experts, including early childhood counselors and social workers, is expected to increase awareness of families regarding the adequate upbringing of children to prevent school complications in the future as well as issues with employment.

The role of the sociopolitical development theory may also add to the exploration of the influence of social and environmental factors on workplace opportunities of young Black males. The research by Lozada et al. (2016) should be mentioned because the scholars focused on the prosocial behaviors of African-American adolescent boys. The researchers suggested that with the help of structural equation modeling, it was possible to reveal that when teenage boys “received parental racial pride messages, but not school-based discrimination experiences,” the oppression analysis findings would change depending on either positive or negative outcomes (Lozada et al., 2016, p. 493).

The oppression analysis and school-based discrimination showed to influence the prosocial behaviors of adolescents directly. Racial pride and oppression analysis showed to have an indirect influence on prosocial behaviors. The findings point to the fact that the way in which Black male adolescents analyze their social roles and status can affect both individual and contextual factors, which may or may not facilitate the positive outcomes for development. Considering the way in which young Black males may perceive their race may reveal important considerations regarding their social integration and subsequent career opportunities.

Research also found that the available programs and policies were not sufficient enough for ensuring that Black males have access the desired employment opportunities. According to Hollister (1989), employment programs that focus on urban youth may not always guarantee that they receive the work that they desire. For example, they may be encouraged to move to suburban areas due to the problems with finding employment opportunities where they live.

Furthermore, work in urban areas may require particular specialization that young people may not have. Employment in the service industry, however easy it may seem, can require potential applicants to have specific skills, such as speaking a foreign language. Therefore, despite the fact that support programs that help young Black males may find employment, they do not consider the problem of poor education and training that limits the sample of potential work opportunities.

Factors associated with the skill and knowledge attainment of Black males can also limit employment opportunities. Such factors may include but are not limited to school curricula and pedagogy, the perceptions of young people about their schools, as well as connections with teachers and instructors. The absence of the necessary level of training and skills limits the scope of potential workplace opportunities.

According to Harris and CLASP (2013), of the 3 million Black males aged between 16 and 24, 663 thousand either dropped out of a school of were incarcerated. The rate of imprisonment for the target group aged between 18 and 24 is 7-9 times the rate of their White counterparts (Harris & CLASP, 2013). Because 60% of employers will not hire ex-offenders, the problem of unemployment is further exacerbated because Black males who have already served their sentences may not get any work because of the low levels of employer tolerance.

While college education among young Black males has increased from 16% to 33%, there are still issues with college completion. Moreover, white males who dropped out of school are still being employed at higher rates compared to their Black counterparts, pointing to disparities in intentional workforce distribution (Harris & CLASP, 2013). It is also imperative to consider the impact of the great recession of 2008-2012 that has led Black males to have higher unemployment rates and slower rates of financial growth.

Therefore, the research by Harris and CLASP (2013) points to the need to develop initiatives that would focus on increasing academic achievement and labor market preparedness within the target population. Community support is a tool that can be used for engaging Black male youth to engage in early work experiences. Moreover, zero-tolerance arrest policies should be reexamined because of their direct influence on increased incarceration rates. Instead of sentencing young males to prison, community service and counseling should be integrated as solutions to helping Black males develop new skills and capabilities that would be useful in future work attainment.

The limitations in the educational and social mobility of young African-American males have also been attributed to structural constraints. As mentioned by Baldridge, Hill, and Davis (2011), the structural constraints are usually limited by the intersectional identity dynamics pertaining to social class, gender, and race. The researchers studied the impact of a national community afterschool program that was intended to facilitate the positive experiences of young Black males within the educational context.

It was found that being a healthy adult, having applied educational and work experiences, and flexibility tremendously helped the target population become more productive members of the workforce. From a policy standpoint, the scholars suggested that the group of young Black males should be approached with support and care within educational sites to respond to their specific needs. Since the majority of complications with education and employment occur due to the complex circumstances that the Black youth faces, policymakers should develop strategies that would promote self-efficacy and eliminate barriers that prevent the group from accessing the desired educational services.

Educational leadership can also play an essential role in helping young African-American males to succeed in school and become better prepared for their future careers. The strategy is necessary because the graduation rate for the group is around 47% compared to 75% for White and 57% for Latino males (Kafele, 2012). The situation becomes more complex in urban contexts and large school districts such as Miami, New York City, and Detroit, where the graduation rate can be as low as 20% (Kafele, 2012).

It is essential to mention that the educational crisis does not begin when students stop attending their schools. Rather, the situation is already concerning even before they start their learning. As they go through the grades, Black male students usually have lower levels of achievement, high expulsion and suspension rates, as well as a disproportionate percentage of referrals for special education. This occurs because the group does not receive the necessary guidance and support required for helping them overcome the challenges that they would face at school. From low levels of school preparedness to inadequate family support, Black male students deal with a range of environmental limitations that make it harder for them to be successful learners.

The school-related gaps lead to the emergence of male adults who are chronically underemployed and unemployed, have access to fewer healthcare resources, and can receive sentences to time at correctional facilities. According to Kafele (2012), an empowerment program that targets young Black males can be beneficial for helping the group fulfill their potential and become effective students and potentially good future employees.

The program implies assigning male mentors that could act as role models to help the youth look at their education differently and try being more engaged in the process. The empowerment of black youth should involve a comprehensive model that would cover students at elementary, middle, and high school levels. Creating vast opportunities for young males to meet with successful representatives of their ethnic and social group is expected to create an environment of engagement and exchange of experiences. Therefore, educators should look into bringing the positive role model framework into facilities.

This is important because Black male students may not have someone with whom they can identify. Empowerment programs can solve this problem and provide a framework for helping the target group become more effective students and, subsequently, good employees in the future.

Thus, the findings of the research above point to the need to develop a robust educational foundation to support young Black males. The report by ETS (2011) suggested the development of high-quality, seamless pre-kindergarten continuum programs that would improve children’s early cognitive and emotional development. When implemented correctly, such programs can be highly beneficial for helping students move from one grade to another with acceptable levels of achievement. Supporting children from Black communities before ages 8 to 9 is expected to give them a foundation that would help to become more productive and engaged in learning.

In addition, afterschool and community-based programs are evidence-based models that could improve the preparedness of children for school. Beyond helping learners attain such basic skills as effective reading and writing, community-based programs will help children understand the morality and ethics embedded in interpersonal relationships. This means that school factors should not only consider the degree of Black males’ preparation to be effective in education but also their ethical background that can either facilitate or prevent educational success.

Support through middle and high school is the next step for ensuring that the Black male youth understands their future life as professionals. An example of a successful program is the Eagle Academy initiative developed to provide high school boys with a college education in a highly complex context of Bronx neighborhoods (ETS, 2011). The uniqueness of the program lies in the fact that the Eagle Academy became the first all-male public school in New York City over the past several decades. Importantly, any young male could get into the educational institution as there were no requirements for high academic achievement. The ideology adopted by the school was associated with strong morals and the belief that every young man has potential, and therefore can become a valuable member of society.

Educational leadership, which was discussed previously, should focus on high-poverty communities that have high rates of young people’s incarceration, poverty, and low academic achievement. Similar to the mentoring programs that can address the socio-environmental challenges that the target population faces, it is recommended to implement comprehensive mentoring for educational purposes (ETS, 2011).

Students can get adult male mentors who would help overcome the challenges of education as well as find areas of interest that may be used in future learning and specialization. Engaging activities, which can range from sports games to debates on relevant topics, are tools within mentoring programs as effective antidotes to the struggles that young Black males may face in the streets (ETS, 2011). Importantly, the earlier mentoring and other supportive programs begin, the higher is the likelihood of young Black males benefit from the resources that are provided to them. High school programs, if implemented correctly, have great potential for guiding the target group toward a college education.

Unemployment and underemployment become a pressing issue when young Black males reach college. Many of them arrive at higher educational institutions underprepared, which increases the likelihood of dropping out. Thus, the problem of Black male achievement at college involves understanding the difference between effort and ability. While some young men intend to succeed despite poor preparation or low socioeconomic backgrounds, others do not put in effort into becoming successful (ETS, 2011). To match abilities and efforts, intense programs are necessary to implement, and a national policy approach is expected to be the most effective.

For example, local governments can implement affordable and possibly mandatory pre-college programs targeting underprepared Black male high school graduates. Such programs are necessary because many graduates need further preparation but may not always afford it. Advisors working with the target group of Black males should be made aware of the negative success indicators. Teachers, mentors, and college counselors should be mindful of the potential problems that may arise during programs, such as poor engagement of the lack of resources to participate.

To summarize, educational factors have shown to play imperative roles in shaping the further success of young Black males when it comes to employment. Many representatives of the population are limited in their resources because of their socioeconomic background. The analyzed studies all call for community responsibility to positively influence the preparation of African-American boys and young men for education. There is a great need to ensure that when they are young, children have the resources to become engaged students and have the necessary skills to become enrolled in higher educational institutions.

The improvement of school policies should also consider the implications of the achievement gap. The fundamental goal of such systems is to reduce the isolation of Black males to enclosed communities by lowering the negative facets of underlying racism that influence poor academic preparation. Mentorship programs have also shown to be positive contributors to overcoming inadequate educational programs.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The analysis of factors that influence unemployment and underemployment of young Black males has shown that the population is affected by an entire system of circumstances that limit success. From early childhood, Black children may be affected by an imbalance in the family structure, having to live in single-parent households. Such households have shown to struggle financially as one parent is not always capable of earning enough money to provide to families. Apart from limitations in accessing the required healthcare services, low-income and single-parent families are exposed to a higher likelihood of poor mental health, which influences children preparedness for school.

The characteristics of modern society have also shown to include racial prejudices that prevent young Black males from entering the workforce. The stereotyping of the target group can start as early as school, with the presence of counter-narratives embedded into the perpetuation of racial biases. The stereotyping prevents young African-American males from being included in employment and educational opportunities, which also had an impact on personal and emotional well-being. As a result of this, the group is often afraid of opening up about their experiences to potential co-workers or employers because of possible stereotyping.

The problems discussed in the analysis of literature require looking at the extent to which building support for young people’s employment can build talent and access to jobs and careers. When policymakers and community leaders collaborate on improving employment opportunities for the target population, they should consider several elements of such a partnership. For example, it is necessary to work with employers to close the gap between the supply and demand of work.

Support from intermediary organizations is needed to assess the data and evidence available on the problem of employment and underemployment to identify more comprehensive tools and incentives for collaborative and supportive efforts. By employing young people as early as possible, policymakers are more likely to create a positive workforce environment that is free of biases that the group of young Black males may face when seeking work opportunities.

Work-based learning opportunities considerations are limited research literature to a significant extent, which points to a substantial gap in studies that should be addressed as soon as possible. For young males who may lack the skills and training to become successful in their careers, work-based learning can be of great benefit. The strategy implies the implementation of courses that help young people attain academic and technical skills for facilitating employability.

Therefore, new research is needed to develop opportunities for work-based learning for the target population of African-American males and analyze its impact on future employment. The role of schools and community organizations is also necessary to evaluate because they can be direct contributors to developing work-based learning opportunities for the target population.

Changing public perception is possible through the focus on the value that the population can offer as a workforce. The diversity of experiences and viewpoints is essential for creating a multi-dimensional workforce, which represents the reason for avoiding stereotyping against African-American males. Moreover, it is imperative to eliminate the underlying problems that could contribute to the negative perception. Specifically, there is a connection between low socioeconomic status or inadequate education and the likelihood of Black males sentenced to prison. This means that in order to reduce the negative public perception and workforce stereotyping, it is necessary to start from the very beginning and help overcome the background problems.

To conclude the analysis, it is imperative to mention that research on employment opportunities among young Black males is limited. Many studies, especially those focusing on the impact of family and social factors, are dated and require replication in the modern context.

The critical issues of concern include racial stereotyping and the lack of attention to the unique needs of the target population, both in terms of emotional well-being and the resources required for becoming successful in academic and workplace efforts. Thus, researchers and policymakers need to continue exploring the issue further to eliminate the main barriers and offer the population of young Black males opportunities for success and growth. Giving attention to factors that have an adverse impact on males as children and adolescents may help reducing the gaps in access as well as creating an overall healthy and happy population.


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