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More than 5.5 million ages 16 to 24 are neither working nor in school,

Excerpted from the New York Times, The Cost of Letting Young People Drift, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/the-cost-of-letting-young-people-drift.html

A new study of nearly 100 American cities by Measure of America, a policy group at the Social Science Research Council, finds that more than 5.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are neither working nor in school, a significantly larger group than before the recession.

The crisis, in a nutshell, is the isolation of millions of young black and Latino men, who are disengaged from school, work and mainstream institutions generally. But the country as a whole seems largely unaware that a large number of young people exist wholly apart from the mainstream, a situation that is enormously damaging to them and to the rest of society. The study finds that more than 5.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are neither working nor in school, a significantly larger group than before the recession.

At a time when the economy is requiring workers to have higher levels of skills, one in seven of America’s young adults can’t even get started. And even if they find jobs, they are likely to earn significantly less than their peers, be more dependent on public assistance programs and end up worse off physically and mentally than their more fortunate peers.

The depth of this disengagement varies by race and place. Nationally, 21.6 percent of black youths are neither working nor in school, compared with 20.3 percent of Native Americans, 16.3 percent of Latinos, 11.3 percent of whites and 7.9 percent of Asians.

Whatever the racial and regional differences, there are several constants that define this depressingly large group of alienated young people. They are nearly three times as likely as their employed or in-school counterparts to have left high school without a diploma and are half as likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree. And girls and young women in this group are more than three times as likely to have a child as their more socially integrated counterparts.

Neighborhoods where these young people tend to live also display common characteristics, including high poverty, high unemployment rates and housing segregation. Researchers found that the more segregated the metropolitan area, the higher the likelihood that minorities trapped there will be out of school and out of work.

The country obviously needs more public investment in better elementary and secondary education, as well as in mentoring, apprenticeships and training programs that could help give young people a foothold in life. The goal should be to break the pattern of disengagement as swiftly as possible for as many young adults as possible.

Has anyone looked into what it would it cost to educate and/or train these young people so that they become tax-paying productive citizens?

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