Project 21 New Visions

B.B. Robinson

What Should the Unemployed Do?


by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. (bio)


In 1992, now Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke — one of the key players in current efforts to reinvigorate the American economy — collaborated with fellow economics professors Andrew Abel and Dean Croushore to author Macroeconomics. The book looks at fiscal policy from a "big picture" perspective.

In that textbook, the trio cite a pre-1982 study by Harvey Brenner, which found that there are high personal costs of unemployment that include the deterioration of job skills, reduced self-esteem and stress.

On a social cost basis, the Brenner study found that a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate that is maintained for six years can be associated with 20,000 additional cardiovascular deaths, 920 suicides, 650 homicides, 4,000 state mental hospital admissions and 3,300 state prison incarcerations.

This shows that there is devastating collateral damage from unemployment. This should be no secret to those who are tasked with finding solutions to America’s unemployment — particularly Bernanke.

Considering that our nation has been embroiled in the current economic crisis for half a decade, and that the same team that presided over the economy for the past four years just won another term, the social problems of unemployment may continue — creating a clear and present danger to the national well being.

Those without a job right now should take precautions to ensure they don’t become another statistic in addition to being part of the Labor Department’s monthly unemployment report.

If one is unemployed, what can be done to maintain serenity?

In considering this question, the following low-cost (and even no-cost) actions come to mind:

* Given the idle time, spend more quality time with immediate family members and ensure that the necessary caring and loving bond remains strong.

* If a family has not already done so, take advantage of time out to perform genealogical research. This can benefit generations to come from historical and health perspectives as well as possibly instill pride in past achievements.

* Engage in costless or near costless efforts to improve the surroundings such as conducting repairs around the home and improving the appearance of lawns and gardens. Someone may be unemployed, but the unhappy circumstance doesn’t mean that their surroundings must deteriorate as a result.

* Utilize the local library and the Internet to remain fresh in one’s field, or use those resources to prepare for future employment by becoming educated about a new field. Someone who can read and comprehend can expect to be able to learn virtually anything. Prepare for a new job.

* Spend time developing new innovations. A truly good idea can be the seed of future employment options and even the beginning of one’s own business.

* Learn to meditate. A recent study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine indicated that Transcendental Meditation showed the potential ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes among black Americans.

* Assess eating and drinking habits and make a commitment to modify behavior by eating and drinking in a more healthy fashion. This may even save money in the process.

* Take on the challenge of identifying ways to put money away for later — even in the midst of unemployment. Savings will come in handy should unemployment compensation payments expire.

* Volunteer! Help improve the appearance and safety of the community by doing things such as contributing time to neighborhood beautification efforts or patrolling a neighborhood to improve security.

There are undoubtedly numerous other effective and beneficial ways to spend time while unemployed. These are just a few offerings meant to try to improve the quality of life for those displaced from the workforce and others around town.

Being unemployed may mean that someone doesn’t have the income that they desire, but it doesn’t have to mean that one’s life cannot be a productive, fulfilling and happy one.

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B.B. Robinson, Ph.D., is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. You can visit his website at www.blackeconomics.org. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.


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