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Landscape Analysis Executive Summary

 

The City of Seattle is in the midst of an unprecedented growth spurt, both in terms of population and economics. The city added 89,000 jobs between 2010 and 2015, and in 2016 its population exceeded 700,000.[1],[2] Median household income topped $80,000 in 2015 with the largest one-year increase – $9,374 – of the 50 most populous cities in the U.S.[3] At the end of 2016, Seattle led the nation in the number of construction cranes in the air, with three times more than New York City. Topping the list of occupations that added the most jobs in King County from 2010 to 2015 were Software Developers and Programmers, earning a median hourly wage of $57. However, access to opportunities and the prosperity associated with such robust growth is uneven. Following Software Developers and Programmers on the list of growth occupations were Fast Food and Counter Workers, earning only $11 per hour.[4]

Those who are not benefitting from the economic growth face increasingly high barriers to stabilizing forces like employment, housing, and education, and these inequities manifest by race, gender, and place. The latest Census estimates reveal that 3.7 percent of white residents were unemployed in 2015, compared to 14.9 percent of Black or African American residents, 5.1 percent of Asian residents, and 5.1 percent of those of Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race).[5] The gender pay-gap also persists in Seattle, with men making 1.4 percent more on average than women.[6] Additionally, the average income of the top 20 highest earning zip codes at $118,500 is $73,000 more than the 20 lowest.[7] These significant inequities demonstrate the rising challenges for insuring inclusive growth for all residents and communities in Seattle.

In addition to race, gender, and place, certain populations experience compounding barriers to employment, particularly individuals formerly in the criminal justice system, opportunity youth (16 to 24-year-olds who are neither enrolled in school nor participating in the labor market), and individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness. In response to these troubling trends, the City of Seattle is partnering with the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) to create the Seattle Social Enterprise Ecosystem Initiative.

REDF is a venture philanthropist that works to connect people with high barriers to employment with jobs. REDF creates pathways to employment for populations facing the highest barriers to employment, namely those with mental health disabilities, those who are homeless, parolees or those who were formerly incarcerated, and young adults not enrolled in school or participating in the labor market (Rotz, 2015).[8]  It does this by investing in employment social enterprises. REDF defines a social enterprise as a double-bottom line business that sells quality goods and services, and reinvests their revenue so they can hire and support more people who would otherwise be excluded from the job market.[9] Social enterprises combine an economic bottom line with a social one, creating a sustainable method for best serving this population.

The effectiveness of social enterprises in connecting those with significant barriers to employment can be further bolstered by a sector strategy approach focused on connecting job seekers to industries with high-growth potential, thus providing targeted training in order to meet demand for specific skillsets. An evaluation conducted for the New York City Center of Economic Opportunity found that participants who received training from the sector-focused career center increased their earnings by $9,071, almost $4,000 more than participants who did not receive the training. Additionally, participants in the sector-focused programs were more likely to be employed in the year after exit, experienced greater job stability, and were 40% more likely to be employed in steady work.[10]

The Seattle Social Enterprise Ecosystem Initiative focuses on businesses and organizations which provide time-bound, subsidized employment in conjunction with supportive services to fully support those facing high barriers to work.[11] These include individuals formerly in the criminal justice system, youth ages 16 to 24 who are disconnected from school and employment opportunities, low income people of color, and individuals experiencing homelessness and mental illness. An evaluation of the impacts of employment social enterprises on people with high barriers to employment shows that every $1 spent by social enterprises saves taxpayers $1.31 and has a return on investment of $2.23 in benefits to society (Rotz, 2015).[12] These benefits are measured as the combination of monetary benefits to those enrolled in social enterprise programs, taxpayers, society as a whole, and friends and relatives of those enrolled in the programs (Rotz, 2015).[13]

These efforts align well with Seattle’s focus on equitable growth. Through the City of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan for Managing Growth, the city has outlined a strategy to improve outcomes for historically marginalized populations through skills training, education, and community-led economic development initiatives. By outlining regional conditions, and combining efforts with the groundwork already laid for a sector-specific workforce strategy in Seattle, the project can more effectively meet the workforce needs of Seattle’s most marginalized communities.

The Seattle Social Enterprise Ecosystem Initiative reflects a commitment to the ideas of equitable growth within the City of Seattle. In partnership with REDF, the city has the opportunity to incorporate an innovative and sustainable approach to employment training into its workforce system. This approach endeavors to connect those facing high barriers with employment and research shows that it also benefits society as a whole. By understanding the city’s context and points of entry into the workforce, social enterprises can offer an effective pathway into economic well-being and self-sufficiency for the formerly incarcerated, homeless and mentally ill individuals, and opportunity youth.

 

This report was created by Suzanne Towns, Senior Advisor, Workforce Development, and Fuse Executive Fellow, and Rosa Gimson, Graduate Student, University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs. It was made possible with funding from REDF and contributions from Seattle Office of Economic Development staff John Crawford Gallagher and the Seattle FUSE Fellowship Advisory board members Brian Surratt and Nancy Yamamoto, OED, Julie Sinai, REDF, Tina Walha and Robert Feldstein, Seattle Mayor’s Office, Alessandra Zielinski, SRP, Dot Fallihee, SeaKing WDC, Lisa Nitze, SVP, Michael Brown, Seattle Foundation. May 2017.

[1] Puget Sound Regional Council Employment Estimates

[2] U.S. Census Bureau. 2016 Population Estimates.

[3] U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey 2015 1-year estimates.

[4] Emsi

[5] U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey 2015 1-year estimates.

[6] Data USA. Seattle, WA. 2016. Retrieved from https://datausa.io/profile/geo/seattle-wa/#economy

[7] Cihak, Carrie S. King County. Income Inequality: Taking Action. Retrieved from http://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/elected/executive/equity-social-justice/2015/Cihak_Income_Inequality_presentation_2015.ashx?la=en

[8] Rotz, Dana, Nan Maxwell, and Adam Dunn. Economic self-sufficiency and life stability one year after starting a social enterprise job. Mathematica Report for REDF. 13 Jan. 2015. Retrieved from http://redf.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/REDF-MJS-Final-Report.pdf

[9] REDF. Profit and Purpose. 2017. Retrieved from http://redf.org/what-we-do/

[10] Gasper, Joseph and Kathryn Henderson. Sector-Focused Career Centers Evaluation: Effects on Employment and Earnings After One year. July 2014. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/ceo/downloads/pdf/CEO-Sector_Based_Approaches_Evaluation_Report-2014_final.pdf

[11] REDF. Big Data Survey Question List. 1 Feb. 2017.

[12] Rotz, Dana, Nan Maxwell, and Adam Dunn. Economic self-sufficiency and life stability one year after starting a social enterprise job. Mathematica Report for REDF. 13 Jan. 2015. Retrieved from http://redf.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/REDF-MJS-Final-Report.pdf

[13] Rotz, Dana, Nan Maxwell, and Adam Dunn. Economic self-sufficiency and life stability one year after starting a social enterprise job. Mathematica Report for REDF. 13 Jan. 2015. Retrieved from http://redf.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/REDF-MJS-Final-Report.pdf

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