Does Youngstown’s Revival Leave the Working Class Behind?
Who is benefiting from the strides being made to redevelop the city of Youngstown?
That is the question posed by Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, in a critical article titled “A Renaissance for Whom?”
The authors point out that despite the success of high-tech start-ups in the city’s downtown, the average city resident has seen her fortunes decline during the current recession. And the situation wasn’t pretty before that.
“Much has been written recently about Youngstown’s Renaissance,” write YSU professors James Rhodes and John Russo on the CWCS’s blog. “Fox News, BBC, The Economist, Entrepreneur, and Inc. have all touted the local area as recovering economically.
“While all the publicity and positive representations have been great for the city’s self-image and provided much-needed momentum for economic development, both local leaders and most journalists have ignored the city’s real problems: high unemployment, poverty, continued high crime rates, and the deterioration of the Youngstown’s neighborhoods.”
Rhodes and Russo point out that Youngstown’s Metropolitan Statistical Area has lost a net total of 9,000 jobs since the recession began. In March, the local unemployment rate hovered at 14 percent, among the highest in the state.
“The Mahoning Valley, like the nation at large, is in the midst of major social and economic upheaval,” they write. “Long-term unemployment contributes to drug abuse, crime, domestic violence, health problems, the break-up of families, and racial antagonisms. Community support institutions are besieged by requests for help even as their economic support – whether from donations or state funds – is declining.”
Rhodes and Russo are absolutely right and their point is important to keep in mind. People are suffering in Youngstown. I’m not sure that diminishes the city’s success in certain initiatives–downtown revitalization and technology-based economic development–although it’s obviously troubling.
I think everyone hopes that someday these developing areas of strength will reach the point where they have a recognizable effect on unemployment, poverty and the associated ills. Perhaps Russo and Rhodes’ point is that the benefits won’t be as widely distributed as was the case with a manufacturing based economy. That may be true. There’s a certain paradox in progress, I guess.