Recession takes toll on young people without college educations

The Kansas City StarNovember 22, 2010 

Among the sons and daughters of the suburbs and the country club set, the recession turned good times to bad.

Their less accomplished peers, who didn’t make it through college or who never even made it to campus, have seen dismal prospects go from bad to awful.

These are the workers for whom the misery of the recession comes in torrents.

To Zachary Brame, it’s a yet-validated hope that a few weeks studying computer gets somebody to please, please, please call him back.

To Schakia Odums, it means taking refuge in uniform, aiming to get from the U.S. Army what the U.S. economy stubbornly refused to surrender.

And for Thadius Hughes, the long road to steady employment or anything approaching a career has been turned into a nearly vertical uphill climb.

In better times “they’d get the worst jobs,” said John Hornbeck of Episcopal Community Services in Kansas City. “Now the barrier is just a flat-out lack of jobs, period.”

Certainly millions of the young and lightly educated find ways to make a living at the menial end of the job market. But the struggles of those who can’t get work pose an extra burden for the rest of us — in the form of fewer people paying taxes, more needing government handouts and, perhaps, a threat of growing crime.

“These people run through their unemployment. … Then some of them get into legal trouble,” said Christopher Jencks, who studies poverty issues at Harvard University. “Some end up stealing stuff, overdose on drugs. All kinds of bad stuff.

“Society picks up not all of the broken glass, but some of it. And some of it gets stuck in our feet. We share the cost with the victims.”

At the bottom of the recession in 2009, unemployment swelled to about 10 percent. But for blue-collar folks, the rate was closer to 17 percent.

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