Chicago’s Twin Maladies: Youth Violence and Unemployment

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The Chicago Tribune examines the city’s “tragically intertwined” issues of youth unemployment and violence. Many have begun to view the rampant gun violence in low-income neighborhoods as a consequence of the city’s failure to invest in those places and the people who live there. There aren’t enough jobs, and the young people vying for them are frequently woefully unprepared because of gaps in their schooling and upbringing. The system has pushed them to the back of the hiring line. The problem is not new, but it has taken on renewed urgency as violence surges in some of the city’s neighborhoods, often claiming people — as victims and perpetrators — in their teen and young adult years. From the start of the year through most of July, 15- to 24-year-olds accounted for 55 percent of the city’s shooting victims and 59 percent of arrests related to shootings.

“The two trends are tragically intertwined, where youth unemployment contributes to the incidence of violence, and violence in our communities contributes to many barriers to employment, both because of the violence itself and because of the criminal justice system’s response to that violence,” said Matt Bruce, executive director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance. Arrests even without convictions can leave a paper trail that turns off employers, and a recent report found that less than 1 percent of juvenile arrest records in Cook County get expunged.

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