The emerging labor market dilemma for the black middle class in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York metropolitan statistical area
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The black middle class in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls, New York metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is at a crossroads. After experiencing explosive growth during the late 1980s and 1990s it has slowed considerably since 2000 and the future growth is at risk. The growth of the black middle class is dependent on expansion of employment opportunities for black managers and professionals. These managers and professionals are concentrated in sectors of the metropolitan economy that are retrenching their managerial and professional employment levels. Nationally as well as in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls MSA, small for-profit firms in the private sector are recognized as an important contributor to the economic health of a metropolitan region. Since the late 1980s these firms have been responsible for the majority of new employment opportunities created in the United States. These firms use informal communication networks to identify and hire managerial and professional employees. This represents a major barrier for black managers and professionals. Using panel interview data collected from interviews with 25 black managers and professionals in the Buffalo metropolitan area, three important findings maybe highlighted: (1) social employment networks for black managers and professionals differ by occupations and industries; (2) the lack of social capital in their networks is a major barrier to initial employment opportunities as well as future occupational mobility; and (3) because of the social capital deficiency in their networks, there is no connection to the informal social employment networks used by small suburban private sector firms in their hiring process. The inability to identify and secure employment in these small firms located primarily in suburbia, will in the long-run have a destabilizing effect on Buffalo's black middle class.