Municipal Leadership for Black Male Achievement

With support from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), the YEF Institute has launched a new initiative that will engage municipal leaders in OSF’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Launched in May 2008, the campaign is a multi-issue, cross-fund strategy to address the exclusion of black men and boys from economic, social, educational and political life in the United States. As part of the campaign, the YEF Institute's Municipal Leadership for Black Male Achievement initiative will strengthen city leaders' capacity to improve outcomes for young black males in the areas of education, work and family.

Achievement and Employment Disparities
A large body of research shows that young black males are significantly more likely than other segments of the population to experience joblessness, low educational attainment, incarceration, family instability and other challenges that perpetuate a cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The recession has exacerbated these disparities, particularly with respect to the detachment of black male youth and young adults from the labor market. In August 2010, the 18.8 percent unemployment rate for African-American men (ages 16 and older) was nearly double the national average, according to the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

In addition, there is a high risk that employment disparities will persist after the economy recovers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of new jobs created between now and 2014 will require more than a high school diploma, and 22 of the 30 fastest-growing occupational fields will require at least some postsecondary education. Yet fewer than one-half of black male students graduate from high school. These achievement gaps have long-term implications for cities' workforce and economic development prospects, local tax bases and public safety and human service costs.

Supporting City Leadership
Responding to the multi-layered challenges facing young black males will require collaboration across public agencies and community partners.

For instance, cities and their partners can help school districts close student achievement gaps by expanding access to high-quality early learning programs, improving school and neighborhood safety, connecting students with health and social services, engaging parents in their children's education and offering enriching out-of-school time learning opportunities.

In their roles as policymakers and visible community leaders, municipal officials are uniquely positioned to convene a broad range of local stakeholders behind a shared vision and plan for helping black males succeed. Many cities are already playing a leadership role in comprehensive efforts to improve outcomes for this population, for instance through "children's zone" or "promise neighborhood" initiatives and cross-system strategies to reengage disconnected youth.

The new YEF Institute initiative will promote municipal leadership in a selected group of cities to support black male achievement, and will identify and disseminate effective strategies to inform the efforts of cities throughout the nation. In addition, the project will engage municipal leaders in a national conversation on how to target resources more effectively to meet the needs of disadvantaged black males.