Differential Urban In-Migration Rates

The First World War and then immigration restrictions instituted afterward cut off the flow of European immigrants into the United States. Between 1920 and 1930 the numbers of Russian-born people had fallen 16%, Irish by 11%; Germans and Czechs also registered slight declines. Blacks continued to move north as they had done before the war. New York and Illinois (New York City and Chicago) received the largest numbers (Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia lost the greatest number), and in proportion to the total population. Blacks doubled in both. By 1950 9.8% of new York City's population was black (1920, 2.9%); in Chicago 14.1% was black (1920, 4.2%).

Differential Job Allocation Patterns

The jobs the newly arriving blacks took were the ones the European immigrants had traditionally taken. By the criterion they were the worst jobs. In the slaughter houses and meat- packing plants, for example, this was the picture in 1909. Foreign-born white workers outnumbered the native-born whites and blacks by nearly four to one; blacks were only 3%. The largest ethnic group was Polish (28%) and after them came Lithuanians (12%), Germans and Czechoslovaks (10%). In 1928 the situation was quite different. Blacks were now the largest group in the work force (30%) and native-born whites came after them (27%). The number of Polish-born had dropped to a third of what it had been (12%), Lithuanians were down to 8%, Germans to 3%, and Czechoslovaks to 2% (Taylor 1932:40).

Quite quickly blacks became concentrated in the jobs at the bottom of the occupational structure, and foreign-born ethnics who had been there before them moved out. In part this reflected some very real gains which the white working class had made through union organization and agitation (cf. Rosenbaum 1972) - gains, , incidentally, which were taken at the expense of the black workforce which was excluded from union membership and shut out of the wage bargains the membership could achieve. In part it also reflected broader obstacles of institutional racism and prejudice which stopped blacks getting the education or skill enhancement needed to justify higher wages or jobs in industries with relatively high technological development, expanding productivity and stability of employment.

Differential Spatial Location

Early migration effects, income differences and effective residential segregation worked together to imprison blacks in central-city neighborhoods, while the white working class was able to, and chose to, move out. It was in these neighborhoods that narcotics were to be found in this period, just as the trade in drugs had flourished when Jews and Italians (etc.) had lived there in the teens of the century. The spatial displacement paralleled occupational displacement, and both are linked to the substitution of black for white narcotics users through the 1940s and 1950s.

Different Birth Rates

The birth rate among blacks arriving in the North during the 1930s remained higher than among whites, notwithstanding a significant fall-off during the Depression. Both fell, but the black rates fell less steeply. The effect was to widen the disparity between the two birth rates. Thus in 1920 the non-white rate was 35.0 (live births per 1000 population), just over 30% higher than the white (26.9). In 1936, however, the year when rates for both racial groups reached their lowest point in recorded history, the black rate was nearly 43% higher than the white; in 1934 the gap was even greater - 45%.

Since a person born in 1934 turned sixteen in 1950, as compared with earlier years the numerical gap between blacks and whites reached a high point from 1949 to 1951, and there were bound to be relatively more blacks aged sixteen than whites of the same age. This is the age at which regular heroin use typically starts.

Differential Labor Market Experience

Since the age of onset of narcotics use corresponds with age of initial entry into the labor force - this has evidently been true going back as far as 1910 (Bloedorn 1917) - and since our orienting hypothesis predicted that periods of severe labor surplus would be periods of increased narcotics use, we have examined labor market conditions for the 16-19 year group, by race, for the two peak periods of narcotics use in the last two decades, 1949-53 and 1969-73.

The first point to observe is that special discriminating forces operate in the labor market against teenagers, although only recently have economists been able to identify these forces as pure discrimination in the sense that labor market outcomes for teenagers (wage rates, for example) are unresponsive to parity, difference or just simply change in the economic characteristics of teenage labor viv-a-vis adult labor (Kalachek 1969; Bureau of Labor Statistics 1970).

The second point is that the demographic factors already cited, in particular the differential birth rates, produced an unusual situation around 1950 when the teenage share of the general population fell (by 25%) and at the same time the black share of the total teenage population (by 9%). What resulted was complex: there was a significant increase (14%) in the overall numbers of teenagers entering the labor market, but this increase was entirely absorbed by whites. Black labor force participation actually fell during the decade and, among males, continued to fall through 1970. This is the first sign that a deteriorating labor market was directly connected to the narcotics epidemics of the period. There are several others.

The fall in labor force participation among black teenagers might have led to more people staying in school, only this is not what happened.

Table 9 indicates that since 1940 white teenagers overall have increasingly taken advantage of longer periods of schooling, and consequently the ratio of school non-attenders to attenders has shown a consistent decline. Between 1940 and 1950, however, black teenagers, blocked from entering the job market, did not stay in school, and in part the relative number of dropouts has increased. Unemployment rates reached a peak between 1949 and 1950, and again between 1971 and 1972, and the relative severity of unemployment for blacks grew at the same time, as measured by the ratio of black to white rates. Other evidence indicates that among black teenagers, even supposing they could find jobs, a longer period of schooling, including high school graduation and even under-graduate training would not significantly alter their long-term income prospects (Davis 1972), nor in the short-term their particular occupational chances and (in the aggregate) their occupational distribution (Stevenson 1972; Strauss 1972).

One of the inadequacies of the data we have used is that the racial groups were disaggregated by class indices so that stage our discussion must be limited to black-white differences as they relate to narcotics use, and not whatever differences or similarities may exist between blacks and working-class whites. To the extent that, as indicated before, the rates of recruitment of the latter to narcotics use has been much faster than that of the former since 1960, it is reasonable to suppose that these economic conditions have become increasingly similar for both groups.

For terminoligical convenience we speak of these conditions together as labor market dualism. From a series of recent studies we are beginning to understand more about elements of the labor force are channeled into distinct compartments of industrial work, across which mobility is severely restricted by technological and social barriers (for a summary and review of research, see Gordon, Reich and Edwards 1973). Only one of these compartments conforms to prevailing popular conceptions of what is "normal," or to the normative assumptions made by sociologists seeking to measure deviance among these groups locked into the bottom compartment.

The primary labor market. The upper compartment contains those workers who achieve family living standards of minimum decent poverty or better. This compartment functions with skill and effort rewarded by higher wages, with jobs having reasonably high stability and employees having a reasonably low turnover rate, and with technological levels, management efficiency, and labor productivity steadily advancing. While the primary labor market is by no means immune from crisis, as witnessed by the middle-class employment calamities that have recently befallen such aerospace centers as Long Island or Seattle, crisis is the exception, and sailing along on an even keel is the rule. Employers and employees on the whole have a mutual stake in cooperating to increase stability which reduces the costs of job search for the employee and training for the employer; they also have a mutual interest in increasing productivity which is the basis of both better wages and profits. While for contrast this picture is overdrawn on the side of harmony, there is no question that the primary labor market achieves at least one important social end. It provides its workers with earned incomes that are adequate to finance socially sanctioned living levels, and under modern conditions of national economic management and unemployment compensation it does so with no more than tolerable dislocations over the working life of the average individual. Most persons who are in the primary labor market are firmly convinced that this is the way the labor market as a whole operates. Yet this is not so.

The secondary labor market. In the lower compartment, low wage levels, technological backwardness, and low skills form a vicious circle. Technology and management methods are either archaic by prevailing standards, as in the case of subcontracting firms on the fringes of an established industry, or a sector as a whole stagnates, such as garment manufacturing or retail or personal services. Even otherwise advanced and well-managed firms may harbor a corner of backwardness and stagnation, for example in the area of janitorial services. The stagnant firms or activities are under-capitalized, have lower productivity, and pay substandard wages. Wage levels average at least one-third below family living incomes, making it impossible for workers in the secondary labor market to aspire to stable, settled patterns of family living.

This market is, moreover, locked in a state of permanent crisis. Marginal firms are fighting for survival and have neither the resources nor the will to upgrade their technology, management methods, or wage levels. While the skills and productivity of the secondary labor force are low, they are all that the backward production methods can effectively utilize; higher education and skills are neither desired nor rewarded in this market. Nor is labor stability prized; the low technologies require next to no labor training and therefore the employer has no stake at all in holding on to his workers. On the contrary, he prefers a high turnover since this reduces the chance of wage demands or union organization. And ironically, the motivations of the workers are such as to reinforce these conditions. They live a floating existence of crisis, and they lack any drive to improve their skills, productivity or employment stability. "turnover" amounts to several job changes per year interspersed with periods of unemployment. Adaptability to training is minimal, not surprisingly since officially sponsored training programs are near-total failures in opening the doors to the primary labor market. They are seen as simply another dead-end temporary job (Vietorisz and Harrison 1972).

This briefly describes the institutional structures of labor market opportunity to which teenage recruits must adapt. One of the adaptations is recruitment to crime as an alternative income source when labor mobility is blocked and when either the real return on labor in the secondary market declines ( e.g., in periods of rapid inflation ) or unemployment in that sector rises - or both. In this light we identify recruitment to narcotics use as recruitment to the narcotics trade and industry, and as economically rational in these circumstances. Although a research project is underway to test a series of hypotheses related to this central theoretical idea, the data in the historical record are worthy of publication. They are persuasive, perhaps, but still far from decisive.