Green Jobs: Myth or Pathway out of Poverty?
This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Clearing House Community, part of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
I wrote an article in 2010 about the potential for increased investment, largely stimulated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in energy efficiency to create, in the construction industry, high-road jobs that were stable, paid good wages, and provided benefits. (Elena Foshay, “An Industry at the Crossroads: Creating Quality Green-Collar Jobs in Energy Efficiency,” 44 Clearinghouse Review 282, Sept.–Oct. 2010.)
Read the full article at Clearinghouse Community, Sargent Shriver National Center on Law and Poverty
At that time the depths of the recession were taking their toll on all Americans, particularly the most economically vulnerable. Investments under the Act brought to the forefront the idea that a clean-energy economy could create new opportunities that would “lift all boats.” Expectations were high, and workforce development programs ramped up in anticipation. The idea that green jobs could create a pathway out of poverty resonated with many and opened up hope for a way out of economic despair. But did the dream of green pathways out of poverty pan out?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did propel the clean-energy economy forward, and the Act had a net positive impact on employment. But while jobs were created, the numbers were not enough to make a significant dent in unemployment. Not all of the jobs created were good jobs, including many of those that were the primary targets of green job training programs. Because of a mismatch between training and jobs, many graduates of green job training programs were left with frustratingly limited employment prospects.
Ultimately the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not pave a pathway out of poverty for the millions who continue to be left out of the economic recovery. Even now, when the overall unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2010, those who were already economically disadvantaged at the start of the recession still feel its impact. African Americans and Latinos are still disproportionately poor, and, with disproportionately low levels of educational attainment, they find fewer opportunities for well-paid, career-track employment. Persistent barriers to employment continue to inhibit many from entering the labor force or moving beyond low-wage jobs.
Despite these challenges, a broad strategy that continues to invest in the clean-energy economy still represents the best hope we have both to build resilience against the impact of climate change and to create American jobs. And if we do it right, we will build a clean-energy economy offering good jobs — a true pathway out of poverty.
Here I briefly assess the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on green jobs and the continued potential for job growth. In an era of much uncertainty at the federal level, I offer a series of recommended actions that can be implemented at the local level to create a good-jobs economy by expanding clean-energy investments and ensuring that those investments benefit disadvantaged communities by creating equitable access to economic opportunity ...
3/16 Webinar: Area Green Jobs a Pathway out of Poverty?
Clearing House Community
Shriver Center National Center on Poverty Law
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- Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on green jobs
- Americans left out of the recovery
- Green jobs as an opportunity
- Six specific clean-energy actions to build a pathway out of poverty