Social Isolation and Employment on the Brooklyn Waterfront

Philip Kasinitz and Jan Rosenberg in their paper, Missing the Connection: Social Isolation and Employment on the Brooklyn Waterfront (1996) conclude that: "few local residents hold local jobs in the private sector. A survey of local employers revealed that most Red Hook jobs were filled via social networks that exclude local residents. Local residents, particularly African Americans, often lacked the social capital - connections and references - needed to obtain these jobs. Further, many local employers considered Red Hook residents undesirable employees for a variety of reasons including "place discrimination" as well as racial discrimination. By contrast, public sector employers often preferred local residents, although their ability to hire them was limited by formal educational requirements. These findings lead us to question the efficacy of policies, such as "empowerment zones," that assume that bringing jobs closer to where poor people live will necessarily improve their employment opportunities."

They note a feeling of resentment among longtime residents in the 1990s:

" The people in the Back - unlike people in the projects - also retain the image of themselves as tied to industrial employment, and with that comes a sharp sense of betrayal. "Our parents worked in these shipyards," one woman complains, "and now these jobs go to people from Jersey, Pennsylvania, whatever. It ain't fair." "

“There is a strong division of opinion about the Brooklyn local of the ILA, a union with a long reputation for ‘taking care of the neighborhood’.” Some see the ILA as shirking this responsibility while others remain loyal to the union.

Among Kasinitz and Rosenberg's multiple conclusions is that "Simply locating low-skilled jobs near where poor people live is no guarantee that they will have access to those jobs. Further, there are many aspects of life in poor communities that may limit the "multiplexity" of the social ties and diminish the mix of "strong" and "weak ties" central to maintaining effective social networks."

[Link to the full article here]


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