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Growing Green Jobs in America’s Urban Centers

Growing Green Jobs in America’s Urban Centers

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Jorge Madrid and Brennan Alvarez explain how the green collar economy is adding good jobs in struggling urban areas.
Jorge Madrid and Brennan Alvarez explain how the green collar economy is adding good jobs in struggling urban areas.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Sep 21, 2011
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1Center for American Progress | Growing Green Jobs in America’s Urban Centers
Growing Green Jobs in America’sUrban Centers
 Jorge Madrid and Brennan AlvarezSeptember 2011
 While leaders in Washingon, D.C., search or ways o creae jobs andkick-sar our sruggling economy, urban ceners are experiencing seady growh in he green economy, which is creaing well-paid jobs in commu-niies ha have el he wors o he recession, paricularly hose wih largenumbers o Arican Americans and Lainos. Tese urban ceners are idealor growing a srong and equiable driver o new business and jobs.Te Grea Recession has no impaced all Americans equally. While coun-less amilies across all communiies are suering, daa indicae ha black and Laino households—concenraed in America’s urban ceners—haveel he wors o he economic malaise. In many cases, hese communiieslack he wealh and educaional asses o hedge agains economic decline.Green jobs are no magic bulle or solving economic dispariy and jobloss in urban communiies bu hey do oer real opporuniy o rebuildour sruggling economy wih a srong growh segmen. Green job growhhas oupaced radiional job growh a a rae o nearly 2-o-1 in henaions 100 larges meropolian ceners, all during he peak o he reces-sion (2008 hrough 2010), according o a new reporby he BrookingsInsiue. Tese urban ceners are he vanguard o green jobs growh,accouning or 64 percen o all jobs in ha secor.Individuals wihou a college degree hold a large porion o hese jobs, which also pay a higher median wage han average. Tis is criical becausehese workers currenly make up nearly 70 percen o he American work-orce and have radiionally been he anchor o our middle class.Similar daa are drawn rom a 2010sudy rom Apollo Alliance, heIniiaive or a Compeiive Ciy, and Green or All, which nds ha inner-ciy green jobs have grown by 11 percen, more han 10 imes he rae o 
The green economy is a sector o thebroader economy producing goods andservices that provide environmentalbenet. This can include clean energyproduction, energy and water ecientdesign and construction, mass transit,conservation, waste management, andnumerous other industries that are parto a general shit in the way we use andproduce energy and eliminate waste.Green jobs include workers in nearlyevery industry who are part o the shitaway rom dirty energy and toward amore sustainable economy. “Green collar” jobs are generally reerenced as paying aliving wage and accessible across a broadrange o skill levels, similar to traditional“blue collar” jobs. The Brookings Institutedenes “green collar” jobs as paying amid-level wage and including the ollow-ing occupational categories: production,transportation, installation, construction,oce administration and support, pro-tective services, and social services.
Defining green jobs andthe green economy
2Center for American Progress | Growing Green Jobs in America’s Urban Centers
inner-ciy job growh in he las decade. Likewise, he Blue Green Alliance nds ha$93 billion in green invesmens rom he American Recovery and Reinvesmen Achas produced nearly 1 million jobs , wih he vas majoriy (80 percen) held by workers wihou a college degree, and 26 percen in he consrucion indusry.Poliical leaders and media pundis love o debae he meris and nuances o his emerg-ing economic secor, and he debae has become quie polarized. Conservaive com-menaors and policymakers have begun o rejec any and all invesmens ha will helphe green economy coninue o grow.In doing so, hey are rying o sarve he ases runner on a sruggling eam. Despie herheoric and poliical angling, he numbers ell a disinc sory: Te green economy iscreaing jobs in he places ha need hem, and hey are he righ jobs or communiies bearing he wors o he recession.Furher, even hough progress has no been nearly as enough o ll he void o he 10 mil-lion jobs los during he recession, and despie he lack o comprehensive ederal policy ospur green growh, progress is sill driving orward. We mus srenghen our eors o grow and proec his emerging secor, one o he ew brigh spos in our sruggling economy, which also oers opporuniy o communiies who desperaely need good jobs.
Economic malaise by the numbers
Naional unemploymen raes hover a 9.2 percen. Terae or Arican Americansisnearly wice ha and he Laino unemploymen rae is11.3 percen. Unemploymenin he consrucion indusry, which represens disproporionaely large numbers o Lainos, hovers a a crippling13.6 percen. According o a new sudy by he Pew Research Cener, he “wealh gap” beween whie, black, and Laino households rose o record heighs during he recession. Beween 2005and 2009 inaion-adjused median wealh ell by 66 percen among Laino householdsand 53 percen among black households, compared wih jus a 16 percen drop among whie households. Daa indicae ha ypical black households possessed jus $5,677 in wealh (dened as asses minus deb) in 2009. Laino households didn’ are much be-er wih only $6,325 in wealh. Te ypical whie household, however, had $113,149. omake maters worse, 35 percen o black and 31 percen o Laino households had zeroor negaive ne wealh in 2009, compared o jus 15 percen o whie households. A separaesudy by he Brookings Insiue conrms ha individuals wihou collegedegrees living in meropolian areas were among hose mos aeced by he recession. Nosurprisingly, blacks and Lainos also have helowes rae o atainmenin higher educaion.
The recession decimateswealth for peopleof color
Median net worth o households, 2005 and 2009,in 2009 dollars
2005 2009Hispanics BlacksWhites$113,149$6,325$5,677$134,992$18,359$12,124
Source: Pew Research Center tabulations o Surveyo Income and Program Participation data.
3Center for American Progress | Growing Green Jobs in America’s Urban Centers
o be clear, his is no simply a “black and brown problem” ha can be swep under herug as we debae larger economic policy issues. Lainos (16 percen o he populaion)and blacks (12 percen o he populaion) make up more han a quarer o our oalpopulaion and represen he naion’s wo larges minoriy groups. High unemploymenin hese communiies is criical or he enire U.S. economy. I ewer people are work-ing, ewer people are spending, and economic recovery will be slow and anemic a bes.Te economic crisis in his counry is largely a jobs crisis and hus we need a srong jobcreaor o drive economic recovery.
Enter the green economy
 As job creaion goes, we know ha we gehree imes more jobsby invesing in hegreen economy han we would by invesing in ossil uels. Tese kinds o invesmensinclude energy efciency reros o buildings, renewable energy deploymen, anddevelopmen o mass ransi inrasrucure, all o which require labor-inensive, U.S.- based jobs. Mos imporanly, hese aciviies creae jobs in he mos criically hi secorso he economy, consrucion, and manuacuring.Case in poin: CAP analysis indicaes ha reroting jus 40 percen o he naion’sresidenial and commercial building sock would require mobilizing a massive domesiclabor orce—more hanhal a million (625,000) susained ull-ime jobs over a decade.Furher, we know ha89 percen o he maerials or reros are made in he UniedSaes , meaning ha he sruggling manuacuring secor would also ge a boos.On op o he jobs we could generae rom energy efciency, hese reros would alsosave Americans $64 billion per year in energy coss. Ta’s $300 o $1,200 in savingsor individual amilies. Tis is especially imporan or low-income amilies in urban cen-ers, who spend a greaer porion o heir monhly income (15 percen o 20 percen)on energy coss. Freeing up 15 percen o 20 percen o a low-income amily’s budge islikely o be spen on oher expendiures—such as groceries, school uiion, and ren—hus urher simulaing he urban economy.Invesmens in mass ransi would creae sill more jobs in he green economy. Te Apollo Alliance has proposed ha a serious invesmen in our naion’s public ransporaioninrasrucure could creae 3.7 million jobs, including 600,000 alone in he manuacur-ing secor over he nex six years. Furhermore,sudiesindicae ha invesmens in publicransporaion creae 31 percen more jobs han invesmens in new highway consrucion. Again, mos o hese jobs will be in he consrucion and manuacuring secor.No only would invesmens in mass ransi creae jobs, bu hey would also increaseaccessibiliy and mobiliy or he 30 percen o Americans who do no drive, many o  whom reside in urban neighborhoods. A sudy by he American Public ransporaion
Harvard business proessorand widely cited economicdevelopment expert MichaelE. Porter argues that America’surban centers are the “crucible”o our nation’s economichealth. He theorizes that jobcreation in urban centerswith large poor and minoritypopulations is the “lynchpin”or the success o virtually allother social programs. Further,he notes that low-incomeurban populations are alsomore likely to spend money intheir local economy. Porter’sresearch suggests that job cre-ation via investments by thegovernment and leveragedwith private-sector capitalcan not only play a critical rolein alleviating the distressingpoverty o urban centers butalso have powerul spilloverefects to grow the regionaleconomy.
The importance of urban centers

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