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Federal Jobs Program Found To Lower Black Jobless Rate

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A 30-month federal program for disadvantaged young people that linked schooling with guaranteed jobs was markedly successful in raising the employment rate among participating black youths, two studies of the program have concluded.

The studies were conducted by the Manpower Development Research Corporation (mdrc), a nonprofit group created by the Ford Foundation and the federal government to design and analyze employment-related projects.

The studies concluded that a notion that blacks were less willing to work than whites was a "myth." In fact, the study said that a greater percentage of eligible blacks than whites took part in the program.

Federal statistics show that the gap between the employment rates of black and white youths has widened since 1955.

The $240-million Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects, which operated between January 1978 and August 1980, constituted the Carter Administration's most ambitious youth-employment program. The projects were conducted at 17 sites and involved 76,000 teen-agers.

The program was continued for 23,000 young people on a reduced basis for one year--at a cost of about $36 million--but the extensive record-keeping and evaluation did not continue after the original expiration date.

According to comparisons of sites with the program and sites without it, the program increased the overall employment of black youths by 67 percent--which effectively eliminated differences in employment patterns among participating whites and blacks.

A study based on daily reports of the youths' activities showed that 63 percent of the eligible blacks chose to participate, while 22 percent of the eligible whites took part.

Difficulties Finding Jobs

Blacks stayed in the program an average of six weeks longer than whites--suggesting, the report said, that they experienced more difficulties in finding jobs.

A spokesman for the mdrc said the program's "outstanding success" has already changed the way that government officials deal with the high rate of youth unemployment.

Sheila E. Mandel, a public-affairs officer with the mdrc, said the Job Training Partnership Act passed by the Congress last September was modeled after the Carter program in its emphasis on linking schools and private businesses.

She added, however, that a job guarantee probably "is not economically feasible right now."

Under the Carter program, financed by the Labor Department and administered by state and local agencies, anyone aged 16 to 19 whose family income fell below the national poverty level established by the Office of Management and Budget was guaranteed a job.

Minimum Wages

The youths, who were required either to attend high school or to work toward a high-school-equivalency diploma, were employed by government agencies and 6,000 private companies. The after-school and summer jobs paid minimum wages.

Ms. Mandel said the improvement the program produced in the employment rate of young blacks relative to that of their white peers was achieved by breaking down a variety of factors that increasingly have shut blacks out of the workforce.

Among those factors, Ms. Mandel said, were a shift in jobs away from urban areas, a drop in the educational attainment of blacks, a rise in the minimum wage that discourages employers from hiring unskilled youths, and a "more intense discrimination" against blacks.

The largest project sites included eight rural areas of Mississippi, and the cities of Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Denver. Smaller projects were established in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Ms. Mandel said that the job-recruitment campaign, conducted by local agencies that administered the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, had made four-fifths of all eligible youths aware of the program through television and other media and the schools.

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