4. Notes from Janesville
Amy Goldstein's Janesville is this year's Hillbilly Elegy — the go-to volume for understanding what is really going on in the hearts of the U.S. midsection.
The backstory: The book chronicles 6 years in a Wisconsin town where the demise of its central actor — a General Motors plant — pushes many of its long-time, middle class residents into poverty.
The primary takeaway: Goldstein commissioned a survey for her book, where she found that — contrary to popular consensus — reskilling is not necessarily the answer for reemploying people thrown out of work.
By the numbers: She found that three years after the GM layoffs began, both the level of employment and the new salaries varied:
- 72% of the laid-off workers who did not retrain had jobs in 2011.
- 61% of those who did enroll in a local technical center were employed.
- Those who did not retrain were earning $6,210 a quarter, or $534 less than their income at the time they were laid off.
- Those who did retrain received $3,348, a drop of almost $2,000 in their prior pay, and much less than those who did not go back to school.
The explanation: Finding a new job relies on where you are living, Goldstein says, and whether there are many available jobs even for the skilled. In the case of Janesville, there simply were not many jobs, and while one group of laid-off workers were retraining, the others were hired for those positions, and began to move up the income ladder.
Read the whole post here.