Job Gentrification

My first Federal job was as a GS-5. I had a brand new shiny MA in History and I was a Museum Technician. Know what I did as a Museum Technician? Hung coats and told people where the bathroom was, and they were almost always down the stairs and to the left. Other duties included monitoring the exhibits, stuffing brochures into the hands of tourists at the information desk, and inform people in long lines of how to get through security. Occasionally, I would lead a tour, work on information sheets, and speak in pigeon German. But for most of what I did, did not require a graduate degree, or even a Bachelor’s. I had a gentrified job, low pay but high requirements.
Don’t get me wrong I appreciated the job. It was a foot in the wonderful world of the culture industry, Federal employment, and they paid to keep my language skills up. For several of my colleagues, also people with BAs, and MAs it was a stepping stone to other positions at the Museum, or in the Park Service. We had a fair amount of turnover, and I left after about 2 years to go to grad school again to get a degree I could eat with. At the same time a colleague left for a desired position along the C&O canal (Park Service).
But back to the job gentrification, something I have been thinking about as it applies to my college educated and unemployed cousins. Those low paying jobs that really don’t pay a lot and don’t really require anything more than a High School diploma to actually “do” the job. But like housing gentrification, where the price of housing goes up past the masses’ income levels, the job’s requirements go past the masses’ education levels.
I’m betting right now there is a bright young thing with a newly printed BA or MA in hand getting off the plane (or train) and heading to DC to make his or her mark. And that person will be competing with other degreed people for jobs worthy of their education, as well as those lower paying AdminAsst jobs competing with non-degreed people.
Can this possibly further plain old gentrification when the jobs that would help people afford the homes are basically only available to people with a doctorate in basket weaving?
The Council is planning on passing legislation to make sick leave a mandatory benefit. This will be great for persons already employed. However, I think it one of the several things that makes the city less competitive and will create fewer jobs that wouldn’t have had sick leave anyway. Also it will make jobs more valuable, too valuable to be wasted on the hard to employ crowd, thus increasing unemployment amongst the unskilled. Also it would encourage employers to seek alternative solutions to get tasks done, rather than hire another person (contract out, buy a machine, make people do more work, etc). We have seen this in our industrial sector, where people have been replaced by machines or production has been moved abroad, with in call centers in Manila or Mumbai.

14 thoughts on “Job Gentrification”

  1. Another question comes to mind; How will the upcoming turnover in the Executive Branch affect the job and housing

  2. I think the Mayor and the City Councilmembers have more influence over jobs and housing in the District, not the Prez. And since we’re a bit of a colony Congress has a boatload of influence over the District, more so than the Prez.
    The Mayor can keep programs that encourage 1st time homebuyers, programs that helped me get a house. The Council can pass laws that make running a small business harder and worth packing up and heading to the ‘burbs. Both can make the city less comptetive compared to our neighbors Alexandria, Arlington, MoCo and PG Co. driving those who create jobs and demand for housing away. The Prez can’t do that by his lonesome.

  3. Well, there are thousands of Congressional staffers. And thousands of Executive Branch employees. And hundreds of political appointees and their thousands of minions who will follow them out of town when their ‘leadership’ packs up and leaves.

    There are dozens of Fed agencies in DC, packed with Civil Servents and thousands of Federal contractors.

    Then there will be the incoming administration, and its new political appointees, and their thousands of newly-arrived minions. Not to mention all the fresh-faced idealists who will likely arrive from the hinterlands should Hillary or Barack be elected.

    There are far more Federal employees tied to jobs in and around the District than there are District employees. Private law firms probably employ more people than does the District government. If the day comes when we have more DC employees than Federal employees working in the District, we’re officially in Bizzaro world.

    The upcoming Federal machinations will probably affect the DC economy and housing market. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  4. Fresh faced liberal idealists kept coming even during the Bush II years. People who leave get replaced with people who come, and some people DON’T LEAVE.
    I’m not a Hill People person, so I don’t have that Hill mindset, I tend to notice there is more to this city than the Federal part. There are a ton of non-profits, NGOs, associations, law firms, PR firms, media outlets, universities, etc that provide large scale employment and I don’t think they’ll go, ‘well new Prez I guess will cut back in the mail room and lay off Mary’.
    During the Clinton years I had a roommate hired by a conservative think tank to battle that administration. So I gather if the new POTUS is a Dem they’ll be other conservative groups hiring (depending on their budget/ fundraising/ etc) to keep an eye on or pick fights with the administration. And vis versa. And if an individual is intent on staying in the city, they will find another job in a related field to stay in the city.
    I’m here regardless of who lives at 1600 PA Ave NW.
    Maybe Hill People are so self centered thinking that the world revolves around PA Ave they might get the mistaken belief that every little thing they do impacts someone in Rosedale or Avondale or Marshall Heights.

  5. Regarding the “jobs gentrification” position, that sounds like the platform of Chris Otten, the Green Party candidate for DC Mayor. The Greens wanted more trade school vs liberal arts grads.

  6. Heavens knows how useless LibArts people can be. Cue What Do You Do With a BA in English from Avenue Q. Sometimes the Greenies have valid points.
    But until having an AA (Associates degree, you get those at Community College) as a CNA, Certified Nurses Assistant, is more impressive than a BA in Lost Atari Skilz of the 80s then we as a society can advance.

  7. “Maybe Hill People are so self centered thinking that the world revolves around PA Ave they might get the mistaken belief that every little thing they do impacts someone in Rosedale or Avondale or Marshall Heights.”

    Well, I’m not a “Hill person”, but I can’t help but inteprete this as an insult to people who are, (and a failed pot-shot at me).

    You often come across as a bitter isolationist.

  8. Some folks look to be insulted, some folks have thick skins and it rolls off. Thin skinned Hill people don’t last long. The point was my annoyance of a mindset that has the axis on the Hill, way too much like a NYC/Manhattan ‘tude towards the surrounding areas. Local politics matter more. Any insults are worthless by-products, which all are welcomed to take home as free souvenirs of their visit to the blog.

  9. It sounds to me like you really need to read Vonnegut’s _Player Piano, his first major book. This book is one of the many reasons I have a more unique way of looking at the world. Anyway, the phenomenon you describe is nothing new.

    Oh, another dystopic view of a future where work is mostly nonexistant are the Judge Dredd comic books (2000 A.D.) from the early 1980s, not the stupid Sylvester Stallone movies.

    Sci. fiction, although I don’t read it much anymore although I have to say recently I read Bruce Sterling’s _Distracted_ and it’s a must read also, has defintely, for better or for worse, shaped me.

  10. There is also a different form of reverse “gentrification” as you use the term in DC Govt. I was talking with someone in the DC Office of Personnel. He said at least 1/3 of the high grade people (making at least $80K) couldn’t use a computer.

  11. fresh faced idealists during the Bush years are sadly, fresh faced Republican idealists. It’s one of the reasons that property rights movements have risen within DC, in a way that can be very damaging to retaining community character.

  12. Richard, did you intend to leave 4 separate comments? For this one post? I’m gonna have to delete one of them, and I’m gonna pick the one that makes less sense. Seriously, 4 comments in a row? 1 minute apart? You’re ruining the aesthics of my comment section.
    **** <----change of subject
    As far as fresh faced idealists (FFI) go, I had a liberal FFI living in my house. It was during this current administration and from some of the things she posted on her blog there were more of her running around the place.
    Imagine you are 22, just graduated from with your useless BA in English and you’re a lefty. But wait there is a Republican prez and a sizable number of Republicans in Congress, so does that mean you stay home and sell insurance? No! You bring your FFI butt to DC to fight the power, stand on street corners and pass out fliers that people will ditch in the nearest trash can, and work in the offices of really lefty causes for a pittance. Why? Cause you believe. And then you get jaded and decide to move back to Michigan… And the cycle continues every time a liberal arts school graduates a class.

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