One in seven American teens and young adults age 16 to 24 is neither working nor in school, according to a new report [PDF] released by the Social Science Resource Council. The number of “disconnected youth” totals 5.8 million, almost equal to the population of Wisconsin or Maryland.
The highest rate of disconnected youth is among African-Americans, as 22.5 percent of Black youth in this age group are without a job or not in school. African-American teenage boys and young men make up 26 percent of disconnected youth, compared to 19 percent of Black teenage girls and young women.
Researchers say school enrollment and low-income families play a big role in African-American young people not having jobs or not being in school.
“Disconnected youth are, not surprisingly, considerably more likely to come from disconnected communities — areas in which high rates of poverty are evidence of and contributors to isolation from mainstream social and economic systems,” says the report.
“Another strong link exists between connectedness of young people to work or school and the educational status of adults in their communities. Towns and neighborhoods in which fewer adults have at least a four-year college degree have a far greater proportion of disconnected young people,” the report continues.
The study lists Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego and Washington, D.C., at the top of a list of 25 metropolitan cities with the least amount of disconnected youth. Atlanta, Riverside-San Bernadino, CA, Detroit, Miami and Phoenix round out the bottom of the list with the highest rates.
Researchers say particular attention must be given to the increasing rate of incarcerated Black males and its correlation to disconnected youth.
“A prison record deters employers, but research shows that ex-offenders who are African-American are far less likely than ex-offenders who are white to be granted a job interview or be hired,” the study reports. “In addition, because significantly more Black than white young men have criminal records, even young African-American men without criminal records appear to suffer from 'guilt-by-association' discrimination.”
The Social Science Resource Council suggests communities and schools make greater efforts to connect youth at risk of being disconnected to services and programs that support academic development and job training.
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