One in Seven Youths Age 16-to-24 Nationwide Out Of School And Out Of Work

Millions of American young people have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

What would you call a country where one-in-seven young people between the ages of 16 and 24 nationwide are adrift, with nowhere to go for work or school? You would call it the United States, according to a sobering new report from the Social Science Research Council. 

Forget all the ‘death to America’ chants from enemies abroad that are filling the news pages. According to One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas report, the rise of a new generation of abandoned youths is a stark indices of where America is headed on its own as a new cycle of poverty takes hold.

“Nationwide, more than 5.8 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24—about one in seven—are neither working nor in school,” it states. “The number of disconnected youth swelled by more than 800,000 from 2007 to 2010, a result of the Great Recession.”

The report notes that even within the cites with the best overall statistics, such as Boston or Minneapolis-St. Paul, there are ghettos—frequently defined by race—where outsized numbers of young people are adrift with nowhere to go.

“Of the country’s major racial and ethnic groups, African Americans have the highest rate of youth disconnection—22.5 percent—while the national rate is 14.7 percent,” it said. “Pittsburgh has the greatest disparity between African Americans and whites—26.3 percent of African American youth are disconnected, while only 9.4 percent of white youth are.” In the New York metropolitan area, Long Island has pockets where the disconnection rate is 4 percent, whereas the South Bronx's rate is 36 percent.

Boston has the best overall figures, owing to its numerous schools and universities. But the report says that it “has one of the highest rates of Latino youth disconnection among America’s biggest cities. Phoenix ranks last, although not everyone there is struggling. In fact, the white youth disconnection rate there is lower than the national disconnection rate for all youth.” 

Behind this social science language is the ugly reality of enduring race and class divisions in America. It’s amazing how one’s race determines how one perceives these schisms as new or even news. The Washington Post today had a story on how surprising it was that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a recent audience commemorating the Constitution’s anniversary that when growing up he didn’t believe the pre-amble stating, “All men are created equal,” and groused when reciting the ‘Pledge of Allegiance.’ But he said that as an African-American youth growing up in Georgia, he often felt there was no place for people like for him.

Fast forward to today’s economic turmoil and the One In Seven report and it is easy to see how there is a new generation of poverty is taking hold, particularly among the age group where young people finish their education and gain a foothold in work. The report first notes the racially disproportionate breakdown among non-whites and then goes through eyebrow-raising profiles of 25 major cities.

Speaking of race, it finds:

• African American young people are the most likely to be disconnected, as the more than one in five African American youth holding this status today indicate... Employment is a particular challenge. The largest gender gap in youth disconnection is also found among African Americans; an astonishing 26 percent of African American teenage boys and young men are disconnected from school and work, compared to 19 percent of teenage girls and young women.

• Latino youth also have a high rate of disconnection: 18.5 percent. As with the African American rate, the Latino disconnection rate remains high even when prevailing rates within metro areas are comparatively low. Latinos are the only group in which young women outnumber young men among the disconnected. Out-of-school Latino young men are much more likely to be in the workforce than their female counterparts. Young Latino women have the highest female disconnection rate among the country’s major ethnic and racial groups.

The two cities at the bottom of the listing—at ranks 24 and 25—are Miami and Phoenix. It states:

“The city of Miami and its surrounding suburbs have over 110,000 disconnected youth—nearly one of every six teens and young 24 adults. This high rate of youth disconnection tracks closely with a very high poverty rate in Miami, among the highest among the twenty-five largest metro areas, and the second-highest dropout rate, just after Los Angeles. Elevated high school dropout rates for 16- to 24-year-olds are coupled with one of the highest youth unemployment rates, more than one in four, leaving few options for a fulfilling and productive young adulthood for far too many young people in Miami. Miami’s violent crime rate is among the highest in America’s largest metro areas.

“Phoenix ranks last of the nation’s twenty-five largest metro areas, with nearly one of every five teens and young adults neither 25 working nor in school. However, within Phoenix, not every group is struggling with youth disconnection. White teens and youngadults have a rate of disconnection that is somewhat higher than the national average for whites (13.3 percent) but below that of several other large metro areas. The African American rate in Phoenix is twice that of whites (28.2 percent), and nearly 24 percent of Latino youth are disconnected. Latino youth disconnection is a particular challenge, as Latinos make up almost 30 percent of the total population.

“Further analysis shows that youth employment is not the area of greatest challenge; unemployment in Phoenix for youth ages 16 to 24 is virtually equal to the national unemployment rate for that age group. Instead, two other areas stand out. Only 55 percent of young people in this age group are enrolled in school, the lowest of any of the twenty-five metro areas, and the rate of teen motherhood is twice that of Boston [the top ranked city].”

The foremost factor that can reverse these trends and the cycle of poverty is educational opportunities, the report says in numerous ways. It says that children who are enrolled in pre-schools tend to do better than those who are not in their subsequent school years. It also says that getting a college degree, though not necessary for all the work opportunities in the current economy, is a critical factor in reconnecting with society.

For more information on the report, which is part of broader national social science survey, go to



AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at September 17, 2012, 10:03am

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