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In his State of the Union Address on February 13, President Barack Obama urged that young people be given the opportunity to obtain the skills training and education that will enable them to find stable jobs in the modern labor force and work their way into the middle class. To this end, the president proposed that high schools be better equipped to ensure a real path from school to work for non-college-bound youth. Today, the likelihood that young Americans with a high-school diploma or less—who are disproportionately disadvantaged minorities—will obtain such a job is much lower than it is for their counterparts who go on to college. In the past, those without an advanced education or specialized skill did not always face such enormous disadvantages. But changes in employment during recent decades have seriously diminished the earnings and job stability of many working Americans whose skills have not kept pace with shifting requirements of the labor market. The Great Recession (which officially lasted from December 2007 through July 2009) magnified this problem. Sociologist Arne Kalleberg argues convincingly that industry restructuring, globalization, deregulation, and the decline in unionization are causing the dramatic increase in unstable, lower-wage jobs and concomitant decline in “relatively low-skill, traditional, middle-class jobs with good pay and benefits, job stability, and steady promotions.”


Wilson, William Julius. "The Urban Jobs Crisis." Harvard Magazine. May-June 2013.