Teens Not in School and Not Working, by Legislative District

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Learn More About Disconnected Youth

Measures of Disconnected Youth on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org reports the percentage of youth ages 16-19 who are not enrolled in school (full- or part-time) and not employed (full- or part-time). Data are available for:
These indicators are derived from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). However, the estimates presented here differ from estimates of “idle” youth on the Census Bureau's website because ACS estimates do not include youth who are not working but looking for work.
Disconnected Youth
Bullying and Harassment at School
Family Income and Poverty
Children's Emotional Health
Food Security
High School Graduation
Math Proficiency
Foster Care
Juvenile Arrests
Pupil Support Services
Reading Proficiency
Gang Involvement
School Safety
Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use
School Attendance and Discipline
School Climate
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important
Sometimes referred to as “disconnected youth” or “opportunity youth,” older teens who are neither in school nor working for long periods are more likely to experience poor health, lower incomes, unemployment, and incarceration as adults (1, 2). Disconnected male youth are more likely than their female peers to engage in illegal activities, though disconnected female youth are more likely to become dependent on public aid (3). Because engagement in school or the workforce is critical to the transition from adolescence to adulthood, detachment from those settings—especially detachment that spans several years—can impede development of the knowledge and skills required to lead productive, self-sufficient adult lives (1, 2).

The effects also extend beyond the individual; one report estimates that in 2013 alone, disconnected youth cost U.S. taxpayers about $27 billion in costs related to incarceration and public assistance, in addition to indirect costs related to lost tax revenues and lost earnings (1). Further, recognizing the need for more skilled workers to compete in today’s economy, the significant number of youth disconnected from school and work could have serious, long-term social and economic implications (1, 2, 4).

Several factors place teens at higher risk for becoming disengaged from education and work, such as growing up in poverty or in underserved communities, having care-giving responsibilities at home, and being in the foster care, criminal justice, or special education systems (2, 3, 4). Nationwide, African American, American Indian, and Latino youth are more likely than their white or Asian/Pacific Islander peers to be disconnected from school and employment, as are youth who are not U.S. citizens, when compared to U.S. born youth (1, 3, 5).
For more information on disconnected youth, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Lewis, K., & Burd-Sharps, S. (2015). Zeroing in on place and race: Youth disconnection in America’s cities. Measure of America. Retrieved from: http://www.measureofamerica.org/youth-disconnection-2015

2.  White House Council of Economic Advisers. (2015). Economic costs of youth disadvantage and high-return opportunities for change. Retrieved from: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/mbk_report_final_update1.pdf

3.  Child Trends Databank. (2015). Youth neither enrolled in school nor working. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=youth-neither-enrolled-in-school-nor-working

4.  Jobs for the Future. (2015). Tapping new pools of talent: Preparing opportunity youth to help fill the skills gap. Retrieved from: http://www.jff.org/publications/tapping-new-pools-talent

5.  Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2016). 2016 KIDS COUNT data book. Retrieved from: http://www.aecf.org/resources/the-2016-kids-count-data-book
How Children Are Faring
In 2015, an estimated 6.7% of California youth ages 16 to 19 were neither in school nor working. Statewide, the percentage of youth disconnected from both school and work was 8% or higher between 2007 and 2013, compared to lower than 7.4% in recent years. Among counties with data, estimates of disconnected youth ranged from 3.4% (Yolo) to 13.9% (Mendocino) in 2011-15.

Policy Implications
In recent years, state and federal policymakers increasingly have focused on issues surrounding youth disconnection, recognizing the substantial number of youth and young adults neither working nor in school (1, 2, 3). In the long-term, if these youth—often called “opportunity youth”—are not re-engaged, they may struggle with unemployment and underemployment as adults (1, 2). For society at large, youth disconnection contributes to significant costs related to having an uneducated and unskilled workforce, increased crime and incarceration, and a greater need for public assistance (1, 2). Youth disconnection disproportionately affects young people of color, those who are homeless, living in poverty, or in underserved communities, those with disabilities, and youth in the foster care and criminal justice systems (1, 2, 3).

Policy solutions range from those that prevent youth from becoming disconnected in the first place to those that re-engage disconnected youth with school, work, and community. Policy and program options that could prevent or reduce youth disconnection include:
  • Supporting research-based strategies—such as home-visiting programs for at-risk families, quality preschool, and safe, supportive K-12 schools—that ensure children, from an early age, have access to quality education and stable, caring environments (1)
  • Ensuring that struggling students graduate from high school by promoting access to support services during and after school, such as counseling and mentoring, and supporting dropout prevention programs and flexible learning environments that allow students to attain credits through non-traditional paths; also, eliminating barriers (e.g., cost) to GED attainment (1, 3, 4)
  • Supporting high school, community college, and community-based career and technical pathways that link youth to internships, modernized apprenticeships, life skills classes, and job placement (1, 3, 4)
  • Expanding employment opportunities for youth by implementing mechanisms that provide incentives to employers to hire and train disconnected youth (4)
  • Ensuring that taxpayer-funded local employment services, including Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), provide targeted, evidence-based job training, support, and employment opportunities for youth and young adults facing barriers to employment; also, ensuring that WIB membership includes individuals who understand and represent the interests of disconnected youth (3, 4)
  • Improving statewide coordination and supporting cross-sector community collaborations that implement integrated approaches to support at-risk and disconnected youth; as part of this, ensuring that new funding priorities and policies address the needs of these youth (1, 3, 4)
  • Promoting collaborative use of data across agencies to identify disconnected youth, better share information, track services, evaluate outcomes, and hold decision-makers accountable (1, 3)
  • Increasing the flexibility of funding streams and revising eligibility requirements of government programs so that disconnected youth can more easily access employment training, health and mental health services, and other support, without service disruptions (3)
  • Encouraging youth engagement and youth development programs—such as youth advisory councils, volunteer or community projects, and service learning—that allow youth to become active decision-makers in their own lives, take on leadership roles, and contribute to the community (1, 4)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit Opportunity Nation and the American Youth Policy Forum. Also see these topics on kidsdata.org: High School Graduation; Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions; Juvenile Arrests; and Foster Care.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Lewis, K., & Burd-Sharps, S. (2015). Zeroing in on place and race: Youth disconnection in America’s cities. Measure of America. Retrieved from: http://www.measureofamerica.org/youth-disconnection-2015

2.  White House Council of Economic Advisers. (2015). Economic costs of youth disadvantage and high-return opportunities for change. Retrieved from: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/mbk_report_final_update1.pdf

3.  PolicyLink, & National Center for Youth Law. (2015). Advancing a policy agenda for California’s opportunity youth. Retrieved from: http://www.chhs.ca.gov/Child%20Welfare/CA_Opportunity_for_Youth_Network_Memo.pdf

4.  Opportunity Nation. (n.d.). We got this: A call to action for youth employment. Retrieved from: https://opportunitynation.org/call-to-action-youth-employment
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Disconnected Youth