Why aren’t more welfare parents becoming economically self-sufficient after participating in the LA County Welfare to Work Program, GAIN (Greater Avenue for Independence)? What has happened to these parents since entering the labor market after GAIN? The answers to these and other questions are presented in “Prisoners of Hope,” a report originally requested by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on December 19, 2000.
How do people change their lives? What kinds of help do working poor parents need to lift their families out of poverty? What obstacles do they face in trying to get a sustaining job? More than eight thousand people answered these questions through a survey undertaken to learn directly from working welfare parents and other poor families about the problems they face and the kinds of help they need to become self-sufficient.
This briefing paper reports on business recovery in buildings damaged during the 1992 civil unrest, the availability of jobs in different areas of Los Angeles, and changes in South Los Angeles’ industry base since 1992. Where were buildings damaged during the civil unrest located? Most buildings damaged during the civil unrest were located on commercial streets in high poverty neighborhoods in South Los Angeles.
The informal economy produces legal goods and services that are not effectively regulated. Such activities can give rise to abuses by employers who fail to respect basic labor, safety, immigration, and tax laws, leaving workers without rights. By definition the informal economy is hidden "under the table" and "off the books." However, by comparing different sources of employment data we can identify industries where a significant share of jobs appear to be unreported. Industry characteristics such as worker demographics can also be used as an additional indicator of informal employment.
Over half of Los Angeles County's labor force works in industries that are highly synchronous with the business cycle, with employment changes likely to occur in the same year as business cycle changes. More than one-quarter of the effects of a recession are likely to occur in a secondary wave of lagged employment impacts that occur subsequent to the overall business cycle. In addition to job losses the past two recessions have also seen job growth in some Los Angeles industries. The ratio of job loss to job growth in the downturns was roughly three to one.
The Business Survey 2000 is the seventh annual survey of businesses conducted by the City of Long Beach. The first surveys tracked the hardships faced by businesses emerging from the recession of the early 1990s that hit Long Beach especially hard, due to massive layoffs at the McDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing) plant.
Earnings of residents who were welfare-to-work participants grew from the fourth quarter of 1994 through the end of 1999. In 1999 it became convincingly evident that earnings had risen above the highest level in these workers’ previous earnings histories. This important news demonstrates that aided workers have made tangible progress toward self-sufficiency. Despite this progress, only 32 percent of residents who were in the labor market for five or more years had earnings above the poverty threshold of $13,424 for a single parent with two children.
In his 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail Martin Luther King, Jr. described the despair of people “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.” It is important to understand the extent to which this image of entrapment still describes the wage-earning lives of the working poor as they try to support their families.
The St. Joseph Family Center provides basic supportive services to low-income families in Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and adjacent neighborhoods in Los Angeles. These services include a food pantry, emergency shelter, educational and tutoring programs, employment services, and counseling and case management. Most Family Center clients are recent immigrants.
A special census of Santa Monica’s homeless population was carried out on Wednesday, October 27, 1999. Homeless residents were defined as individuals who did not have a regular place of their own where they could sleep. The Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research organization, planned and coordinated the count under a contract from the City of Santa Monica.
The loss of a welfare safety net for most adults for most of their lives makes the quality of jobs available to the working poor and their success in finding and keeping jobs increasingly important. The economic and civic life of the Los Angeles region will be shaped by connections that are made, or fail to be made, between the growing ranks of working poor and opportunities for steady, sustaining, productive employment.
The South Bay Economic Adjustment Strategy has been prepared to help elected officials, public sector staff, business leaders, and citizens take coordinated, effective action to recover jobs lost because of defense cutbacks. The strategy has been prepared under a grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment in the Department of Defense that was administered by Los Angeles County’s Community Development Commission.