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.
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 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.
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 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.
This study examines how firms, workers, and regional economic development institution are dealing with the severe effects of defense downsizing in the Los Angeles region. Between 1988 and 1994 the Los Angeles region lost 127,000 jobs in defense-related industries, including aircraft, missiles, instruments, and electronics. The long economic slump set off by defense cuts has incited a major debate between the advocates of regional institution building and proactive economic development and those arguing for the laissez-faire approach of reducing taxes, wages, and environmental costs.
Background An interdisciplinary research team analyzed information about the labor market, economy, industries, and defense linkages of Los Angeles County. The report recommends an economic adjustment strategy to reduce severe job losses projected as a result of cutbacks in defense funding for Los Angeles County industries.