Disconnected youth

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Disconnected youth is a label in United States public policy debate for NEETs, young people "Not in Education, Employment, or Training". Measure of America's March 2017 report says disconnected youth (defined as aged 16 to 24) number 4.9 million in the United States, about one in eight of the age cohort.[1] Disconnected youth are sometimes referred to as Opportunity Youth.[2]

Emphasis is placed upon this group because the years between the late teens and the mid-twenties are believed to be a critical period during which young people form adult identities and move toward independence. The effects of youth disconnection—limited education, social exclusion, lack of work experience, and fewer opportunities to develop mentors and valuable work connections—can have long-term consequences that snowball across the life course, eventually influencing everything from earnings and self-sufficiency to physical and mental health and marital prospects. Much discussion has been focused on how to reach these young people and connect them with broader social institutions in order to prevent these negative consequences.

Analysis has also examined the economic impact of youth disconnection. According to the Measure of America report, the average disconnected youth costs $37,450 a year in government services.


The term has gained increased usage in recent years among policy advocates and social science researchers, particularly after the Great Recession. After a decade of relatively stable rates, the rolls of the disconnected surged by over 800,000 young people between 2007 and 2010.[3] The latest data indicates that the rate of youth disconnection has fallen to 12.3 percent, a significant drop from the 2010 post-recession high of 14.7 percent, or 5.8 million young people.[1]

A 2012 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that "the data show that the populations struggling the most to enter the workforce and stay in school today are youth who are less educated, come from low-income families and belong to a racial or ethnic minority."[4]

The United States Department of Education defines disconnected youth as those aged 14 to 24 years old, but relies on calculations done for the 16-24 group by Measure of America.[5] Some researchers have narrowed the definition of youth disconnection to exclude those above an income and education threshold,[6] and those parenting with a connected spouse.[7][8]

The two surveys commonly used to calculate youth disconnection are the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). Each survey has its advantages; the ACS surveys people in "group quarters" and has a larger sample size, which allows demographic and geographic disaggregation of data, while the CPS is an older survey, including data from 1940 on.[8]

Youth disconnection in 25 largest US metro areas[edit]

Below is a list of United States metropolitan areas sorted by their rates of disconnected youth, as well as youth disconnection rates by race and ethnicity in metro areas where the population of that racial or ethnic group is sufficiently large for robust estimates.[9]

Rank Metro Area All
African American
United States 12.3 18.9 14.3 10.1
1 Boston 7.3 10.8 9.6 6.5
2 Minneapolis 7.9 - - 5.8
3 San Francisco 9.2 21.8 9.6 6.9
4 San Diego 9.7 - 11.3 8.6
5 Washington 10.3 14.6 11.9 7.3
6 Denver 10.3 - 14.6 7.7
7 Seattle 10.9 - 15.7 10.2
8 Los Angeles 11.1 21.2 12.0 8.4
9 Portland 11.2 - 13.0 11.6
10 Baltimore 11.3 20.5 - 7.0
11 St. Louis 11.5 19.4 - 8.5
12 Chicago 12.1 22.9 12.2 8.2
13 New York City 12.2 18.2 15.6 8.7
14 Orlando 12.2 17.4 14.1 8.8
15 Miami 12.2 17.0 11.9 8.8
16 Dallas-Fort Worth 12.4 15.2 14.6 10.4
17 Philadelphia 12.9 22.2 18.0 8.5
18 Tampa-St. Petersburg 12.9 21.8 12.1 11.1
19 Phoenix 13.2 21.0 15.2 10.6
20 San Antonio 13.4 - 15.6 11.2
21 Atlanta 13.6 17.8 13.1 10.9
22 Houston 13.7 15.3 15.8 10.8
23 Charlotte 14.7 17.4 17.3 13.3
24 Detroit 15.0 25.6 - 10.5
25 Riverside-San Bernardino 16.1 21.1 16.5 14.8


  1. ^ a b Lewis and Burd-Sharps, Kristen and Sarah (March 8, 2017). "Promising Gains, Persistent Gaps: Youth Disconnection in America" (PDF). Measure of America, Social Science Research Council. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Opportunity Youth - The Corps Network". www.corpsnetwork.org.
  3. ^ Lewis and Burd-Sharps, Kristen and Sarah. "One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas" (PDF). Measure of America, Social Science Research Council. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity" (PDF). The Annie E Casey Foundation. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  5. ^ https://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/03/performance-partnership-pilots-an-opportunity-to-improve-outcomes-for-disconnected-youth/
  6. ^ Ross, Martha; Svajlenka, Nicole Prchal (24 May 2016). "Employment and disconnection among teens and young adults: The role of place, race, and education". The Brookings Institution. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  7. ^ Fernandes-Alcantara, Adrienne L. (1 October 2015). "Disconnected Youth: A Look at 16 to 24 Year Olds Who Are Not Working or In School" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  8. ^ a b Powers, Alex; Recio, Marina (26 September 2016). "Young and Adrift: Measuring Youth Disconnection in America Today". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  9. ^ Measure of America's 2017 report, "Promising Gains, Persistent Gaps: Youth Disconnection in America."
  • Heckman, James J. "The Case for Investing in Disadvantaged Young Children", in Big Ideas: Investing in our Nation's Future. Washington, DC: First Focus, 2008. 49-58.
  • Sum, Andrew, Ishwar Khatiwada, and Joseph McLaughlin. "The Consequences of Dropping out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers." Center for Labor Market Studies Publications, October 2009. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20000596.
  • Edin, Kathryn, and Maria Kefalas. Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
  • Edelman, Peter, Harry Holzer, and Paul Offner. Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2006.
  • Fernandes-Alcantara, Adrienne L., and Thomas Gabe. "Disconnected Youth: A Look at 16- to 24-Year- Olds Who Are Not Working or in School." Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2009.
  • Holzer, Harry J. "Reconnecting Young Black Men: What Policies Would Help?" The State of Black America. National Urban League, Washington, DC, 1999.
  • Levitan, Mark. "Out of School, Out of Work . . . Out of Luck? New York City's Disconnected Youth." Community Service Society, New York, 2005.
  • White House Council for Community Solutions. "Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth." Final Report. June 2012. http://www.serve.gov/new-images/council/pdf/12_0604whccs_finalreport.pdf.