Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who are the Marginalized?

As alluded to in my last post, this is one of those moments when the main thing standing in my way is a lack of time for the competing posts in my head! However, I have often considered this question over the years, and a recent article from Catherine Rampell encouraged me to place it in a broader context. Of all the marginalized, the fate of older millennials is one of today's most pressing concerns. From Catherine Rampell:
Young people are finally leaving the nest. Move up an age bracket, though, and the trends are heading in the wrong direction. Americans age 25 to 34 seem to be regressing...Yale's Lisa Kahn finds that people who graduate from college during a time of high unemployment earn significantly lower wages than workers with better timing. This differential persists not for a year or two but for decades. Why such long lasting scars? When openings are rare, young people take whatever job is available and get stuck on a lower trajectory...
There's been a lot of pain for market monetarists, in knowing the setback these young workers experienced should not have been so severe. Had the Fed maintained a nominal spending path at the outset of what became the Great Recession, the entire life trajectory of older millennials would be taking place at a more dynamic level. And yet, this is only the latest group with real disadvantages in the marketplace. It continues to suffer along with other groups, as extremely low inflation means populations as a whole aren't keeping up with marketplace gains.

Once, my brother asked who - exactly - was I writing for. What does it even mean, to assume that I'm ultimately writing for the marginalized? Not only do these individuals come from all walks of life, many scarcely realize it when they are negotiating from a compromised position. Fortunately, much of life uncertainty is often relative and temporary.

Even so, a lack of realization re one's position can be problematic in itself, for a person may not understand what is happening for a long time. Normally one "falls"...then bounces back! Hence marginalization occurs in any number of stages, and from any number of causes. Individuals may not be aware of a growing presence of contributing factors, until little power remains to negotiate for one's needs - either in the marketplace or at a personal level. Baby boomers - for instance - might not realize they are falling behind peers, friends and extended family until it is quite late in the game, and a questionable "retirement" looms in the near distance.

While hiring has greatly improved of late, much about the workplace has dramatically changed from a decade earlier. When labor force participation is low, many who once would have been hired in spite of a few drawbacks, are now passed over for those with a better credit report or fewer health concerns, for instance. This means more problems for those with below average grades; a lack of confidence, physical stamina or general resources; living in the wrong area, the list goes on and on. One need not be "below average" in some respect, to miss out on job opportunities. According to Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, in "The Big Lie: 5.6% unemployment":
Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment".
Since the Great Recession, individuals and groups have tried to reach out to the marginalized in multiple capacities. That doesn't even count the organizations and government programs, which have been tending to many among the marginalized all along.

How could all these groups do a better job of reaching out - not only to those in need of help, but to one another as well? To be sure, there are networks which exist for them to do so, but they are not easy for anyone "outside the loop" so to speak, to discover. Some of these networks exist in the applied settings of prosperous cities and regions, whereas others exist in the more theoretical context of higher education. How much do they communicate their efforts with one another, and with the public as a whole?

For one thing, even though people want to help, there isn't really a common vision for reintegrating the marginalized back into society. One would think a digitized age could make all this easier, but in a sense that is part of the problem. There are so many ongoing dialogues which are intent on solving problems, but so far everyone is mostly speaking in different languages.

Indeed, conversations and approaches are so different, it can be difficult to remember the same concerns are being expressed time and again. Thus the task at hand is to to connect pathways, so that common visions can become possible. More paths need to cross, and more cross pollination needs to happen. It's not just a matter of making sure the marginalized don't fall through the cracks, but making certain these individuals play their own roles in moving society forward. After all, this group comprises the missing marketplace, the missing growth, and the missing hope for the future.

Update: A related report -

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