Baltimore city's poor economic state was caused by incompetent government planning during deindustrialization. For years the city's residents, especially the Black population, have suffered from their negligence.
However, leaders and social entrepreneurs native to the city as well as outside organizations are leading the city's journey out of poverty.
The rich past of Baltimore city
During the second Great Migration, Baltimore City was a hot spot for Black Southern migrants because of job opportunities. The manufacturing industry served as a pathway to financial stability for the migrants and many others. It provided a decent wage without the requirement of a higher education.
Baltimore once accounted for nearly 75% of all Maryland workers’ jobs, most of which were in the manufacturing industry. However, once globalization appeared in the mid-1900s, it popularized the outsourcing of labor and jobs decreased.
Bethlehem Steel, formerly located at Sparrow Point in Baltimore County, was once the largest steel mill in the country. At its peak, it employed around 35,000 Baltimore residents.
From 1950-1995, in combination with Baltimore City’s other major factories of the time, the city lost over 100,000 jobs. Moreover, Baltimore lost another 25% of its manufacturing jobs from 1999-2005. This decline was the 7th highest among all U.S cities and more than the country’s average.
A rise in unemployment
The good news is, the city replaced the lost jobs. The bad news is they were replaced by limited low-wage service sector jobs that barely cover basic needs. By the end of the 20th century, Black people accounted for 71% of low-wage service workers.
As a result of unsatisfactory job availability, the city’s poverty rate increased. It has consistently been nearly double than the average of both the country and state.
Effects on today's youth
Unlike the middle and upper class White people and Black people, who relocated during deindustrialization, lower middle-class residents, many of which were the recent Black migrants, were forced to stay. Consequently, primarily Black people have been affected by the poor economy.
In the last 27 years, Baltimore’s lowest unemployment rate has been 5%, and the highest has been 12%. Baltimore has consistently been one of the country's most poverty-stricken cities. Moreover, low-wage service industry employees experience long and sporadic hours. That being the case, youth often go without supervision.
According to a Harvard study, a substantial percentage of kids left without guardians have suffered physically or mentally. The same study states that parents in Baltimore are more likely to leave their children home alone sick all day than parents in Vietnam.
For parents to provide their children with their basic needs, they are having to risk their child's mental and physical health in the process. Undoubtedly, this decision eats at the heart of those that must make it.
A city full of leaders!
The city needs jobs, and the manufacturing industry has become archaic; however, there are various other industries that can flourish in Baltimore.
John Hopkins has become one of the leading organizations in providing new hiring and contracting programs for residents.
According to the Baltimore Sun, in 2016 their Hopkins local program has steered more than $55 million in construction spending to disadvantaged or minority- or women-owned firms. To date, they have made more than 300 hires from underserved Baltimore neighborhoods for entry-level positions.
Progress is occurring in their education system as well. Recently, the city voted to change dollar allocations to traditional public schools based on poverty levels rather than standardized test scores. This shift should result in more money in the schools of underserved students.
Throughout this period of economic disarray, the spirits of the city’s residents have remained high. Communities are working together to elevate the city. As a result, beneficial organizations like SAFE Alternative, B-360 Baltimore, and Tha Flower Factory are making an impact!
These, and similar initiatives by other social entrepreneurs native to the city, have assisted in the decline in poverty from 24.2% in 2014 to 23% in 2016. It is their efforts that will secure a bright future for Baltimore City and demonstrate to people everywhere how unity can create change.