Darity Selected as One of Politico Magazine’s Top 50 Key Thinkers

Sandy Darity's proposal for a federal job guarantee is helping to reshape US politics and economic thought.
Sandy Darity's proposal for a federal job guarantee is helping to reshape US politics and economic thought.

William A. (“Sandy”) Darity, Jr., founding director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, was selected by Politico Magazine as one of 2017’s top 50 thinkers, doers and visionaries who are reshaping American politics and policy. The bipartisan list—filled with lawmakers, activists, writers and other visionaries—recognizes the 50 people across the country who are having the most influence on national political debates.

Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke, is honored for his policy proposal aimed at eliminating unemployment and building an inclusive economy through a federal job guarantee. Darity shares the honor with Darrick Hamilton, one of his former graduate students who is now a member of the economics and urban policy faculty at the New School in New York City.

“For more than a decade, [Darity has] advocated for the simple-sounding idea that in America, everyone who wants a job should be able to get one,” writes Danny Vinik of Politico Magazine. “If the private sector doesn’t employ them, the government should.”

“A Federal Job Guarantee would ensure every American over the age of eighteen a job provided by the government at non-poverty wages,” Darity says. “It would establish a floor on the compensation that the private sector must offer more effectively than minimum wage laws. After all the effective minimum wage, if you don’t have a job, is zero.

“The job guarantee will insulate all Americans from cyclical unemployment, and it also will address long-standing structural barriers that keep large segments of stigmatized groups out of the labor force or out of decently paid jobs. It will build a stronger, more inclusive economy.”

Politico, citing growing support for a federal jobs guarantee program, honors Darity’s promotion of the federal job guarantee through research papers and in the media, as well as through guidance to policymakers on Capitol Hill and to Washington think tanks.

Darity and Hamilton argue that the case for establishing a federal job guarantee is bolstered by extensive evidence of a longstanding pattern of structural racial inequality that deepens whenever there is an economic downturn in the United States. Two indicators of economic insecurity—the employment gap and the racial wealth gap—remain persistent.

The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity’s Research Brief, “Returning to the Promise of Full Employment: A Federal Job Guarantee in the United States,” reports that the unemployment for blacks remains roughly twice the rate of whites at every level of education. Even when black students complete a degree in a STEM field, an area in high demand by the labor market, they still experience markedly higher rates of unemployment than white with similar degrees. And, they are more likely to end up in jobs which do not require STEM training.

“A job guarantee isn’t simply about money; it is also about the human costs associated with unemployment,” Darity says. In addition to inflicting lasting damage on an individual’s labor market prospects, unemployment is associated with increased rates of physical and mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, child and spouse abuse, failed relationships, suicide and attempted suicide, and a host of other personal and social ills.

By strengthening workers’ bargaining power and eliminating the threat of unemployment, Darity and Hamilton contend, a federal job guarantee would fundamentally transform the current labor market in the United States, address racial inequities, and provide economic security, mobility and sustainability for all Americans.