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.
This report analyzes the impacts of aerospace restructuring on the Gateway Cities. The analysis draws upon Department of Defense contract data bases, local industry employment data, and input-output modeling of the local economy. The Gateways Cities region of Los Angeles County is comprised of twenty-seven cities that have formed their own Council of Governments.
Welfare reform raises the prickly question of what mix of understanding, support and pragmatic pressure is needed to move welfare recipients into employment. Many workers are scrambling to keep the wolf from their own doors in the face of industry restructuring, rapid technological change, and intense pressures to increase corporate profits.
Recent welfare reform legislation mandates that aid recipients become employed and economically self-sufficient. The allowable interval of continuous assistance is limited to 24 months for current recipients and 18 months for new recipients, with a lifetime limit of five years on welfare. At least 150,000 current welfare recipients in Los Angeles County must move into the workforce, securing at least partial employment by December 1999.
The Economic Roundtable conducted a survey of defense-linked and other high technology firms in Ventura County in February-March 1998. The survey was commissioned by the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. The purpose of the survey was to determine employment and sales trends in defense-related and other high technology firms and changing levels of defense dependency of defense-related firms.
The City of Long Beach and other centers of aerospace production that reaped the rewards of the 1980s defense-spending boom must now confront the realities of restructuring. Since World War II, the Douglas Aircraft plant made Long Beach an important center of the US aerospace industry and dominated the local economy. In 1992, the Long Beach aerospace industry employed 36,100 workers, which was 22 percent of the city's total employment. Almost all of these workers were employed by McDonnell Douglas. Long Beach aerospace workers earned a total payroll of over $1.5 billion, which was 30 percent of the city's total payroll. These figures understate the total impact of aerospace on the Long Beach economy, through linkages with firms in other industries that provide inputs to the aerospace industry, and purchases of goods and services by aerospace workers.
For most working age homeless people, steady employment is the only feasible avenue to economic independence and a better life. In addition to enabling economic self-sufficiency, work constitutes the single most important link most individuals have with society, offering a foundation for reconnection with the larger community.