A Profile of Youth and Young Adults in Atlanta
Youth and young adulthood, spanning approximately ages 14 through 24, are critical stages of development. During this phase, young people experience profound physiological changes and must navigate increasing autonomy, forming their identity, learning socio-emotional and life skills, obtaining education and job training and more. This formative transitional period is a window of opportunity for parents, caregivers and adults in the community — as well as programs, investments and policies — to support young people and help put them on a positive path for the future.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Center, in collaboration with local partners, provides wide-ranging data on the well-being of youth and young adults in Atlanta, covering poverty, education, employment, health, teen births and more. This profile highlights key findings from these data, as well as select data from the Georgia Student Health Survey.
Key Findings on Atlanta Youth
While issues such as poverty, student absenteeism, racial and ethnic inequities, mental health and access to health insurance remain serious challenges for young people in Atlanta, the city has made meaningful progress in other areas, including improving high school graduation rates, supporting young people in the transition to adulthood and reducing teen births.
- The poverty rate for children dropped by more than 50% between 2005 and 2021: Atlanta’s child poverty rate fell from 49% in 2005 (the first year available) to 24% in 2021 — a 512% drop. At the same time, the city’s child poverty rate remained well above the state (20%) and U.S. (17%) rates in 2021. In 2021, nearly one in four Atlanta kids — approximately 20,000 — lived below the federal poverty level.
- Atlanta’s young adult poverty rate remains high and consistently exceeds state and U.S. rates: In the last two decades, a much larger share of Atlanta’s young adults, ages 18 to 24, have experienced poverty compared to those statewide and nationally. For instance, the latest data in 2017 show that more than 1 in 3 (35%) Atlanta young adults lived in poverty versus about 1 in 5 across Georgia and nationwide. While the city’s young adult poverty rate has come down since its peak of 48% in 2012, the 2017 rate is about the same as it was in 2005 (36%), the first year available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center.
Education and the Transition to Adulthood
- Atlanta’s chronic student absenteeism rate spiked in 2021, to 38%: The share of students who were absent from school more than 15 days steadily increased from 11% in 2012 to 18% in 2019, then dipped to 13% in 2020 (perhaps related to the COVID-19 pandemic), followed by a sharp jump to 38% in 2021. The statewide rate mirrored this trend, albeit with lower absenteeism averages throughout, spiking to 20% in 2021.
- Atlanta’s Black students are more likely than others to miss 15+ days of school: In 2020, 16% of Black students in Atlanta missed more than 15 days of school, compared to 11% of Native American, 10% of Latino or Hispanic, 6% of multiracial and 3% of both white and Asian American students. Atlanta’s Black students are also more likely to have 15+ absences than Black students statewide (9% in 2020), according to all years available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center.
- Atlanta’s high school graduation rate improved by more than 60% in the past decade: The four-year adjusted graduation rate improved from 51% in 2012 to 83% in 2021, an impressive 63% increase. The city’s graduation rate has almost reached the statewide rate, at 84% in 2021.
- Graduation rates markedly increased for all racial and ethnic groups, but inequities continue: According to the latest data available in 2020, Atlanta’s high school graduation rates for Black (77%) and Latino or Hispanic (83%) students remained well below those for white (97%), Asian or Pacific Islander (96%) and multiracial (94%) students. Compared to statewide rates, Atlanta has larger disparities among racial and ethnic groups, but the city demonstrated greater gains over time for each individual group. For example, from 2011 to 2020, Atlanta’s graduation rates rose by 50% for Black students and by 66% for Latino or Hispanic students, compared to increases of 36% and 37% for these groups, respectively, statewide.
- 1 in 10 Atlanta youth and young adults were not in school and not working in 2019, up from previous years: The share of youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 who were not in school (full- or part-time) or employed (full- or part-time) was 10% in 2019, an increase from 7% in 2018. However, this figure is an improvement from 15% in 2010 and below both the state (13%) and national (11%) averages in 2019.
- About 1 in 12 young adults are not in school, not working and have no degree beyond high school: This measure helps to gauge the extent to which young people ages 18 to 24 are having difficulty transitioning to adulthood. The share of Atlanta young adults who are not working, not in school and without a degree beyond high school has generally been on the decline over the past decade, from 15% in 2011 to 8% in 2021. In addition, Atlanta’s latest figure is well below both the Georgia (15%) and U.S. (13%) averages.
- Seven in 10 young adults were enrolled in or had completed college in 2019: The share of Atlanta young adults ages 18 to 24 who were enrolled in or had completed college largely increased over the past decade, from 64% in 2010 to 71% in 2019, the most recent year available. While the 2019 figure was down from 76% the previous year, the city’s college enrollment or completion rates consistently have been higher than the state (45% in 2019) and national (49%) rates. Also see the Atlanta Public Schools 2022 College and Career Ready Performance Index from the Georgia Department of Education.
Health and Safety
- Approximately 1 in 12 ninth-grade students report using alcohol in the past 30 days: In 2020, 8% of ninth-graders in Atlanta and statewide reported using alcohol in the past month. While this is an improvement from city (9%) and state (13%) figures in 2014 (first year available), the share of Atlanta ninth-grade students reporting recent alcohol use had dropped to 5% in 2017 and has since inched upward.
- 1 in 10 high schoolers report using marijuana in the past 30 days: According to the 2022 Georgia Student Health Survey, 10% of high school students in Atlanta Public Schools reported using marijuana in the past month. Smaller shares of high schoolers reported either cigarette smoking or use of any other tobacco products in the last 30 days, at 4% and 6%, respectively. When asked where they usually use tobacco, drugs or alcohol, 13% of high schoolers said at home or a friend’s home and 7% said at school or in a car, while 76% said they do not use these substances.
- The share of Atlanta children without health insurance more than doubled in 2021: The rate of uninsured children jumped from 4% in 2019 to 9% in 2021, representing 9,000 young people without any health coverage. The city’s 2021 uninsured rate for this age group was higher than both the statewide (7%) and national (6%) rates.
- In 2020, 44 teens ages 15 to 19 died in Atlanta (due to all causes combined): The number of teen deaths fluctuates each year and ranged between 16 and 36 per year from 2011 to 2019, with 2020 representing a higher number of youth deaths than usual. While the teen death rate is not available for Atlanta, it is available for the surrounding Fulton County, and Atlanta is the most populous city in the county (and state). This county rate shows that teen deaths due to homicides, suicides and accidents increased from 30.6 to 51.9 per 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 between 2012 and 2021. While the county rate also fluctuates from year to year, the 2021 figure dropped below the statewide rate of 54.9 per 100,000 that year.
- Half of Atlanta high schoolers report feeling depressed, sad or withdrawn: According to the 2022 Georgia Student Health Survey, fully 50% of high school students in Atlanta Public Schools reported feeling depressed, sad or withdrawn at least once in the past 30 days. Further, more than one-third (36%) of these students experienced intense anxiety, worries or fears that got in the way of their daily activities at least once in the previous month.
- More than 1 in 10 high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year: The same Georgia Student Health Survey also found that 11% of high school students in Atlanta Public Schools seriously considered attempting suicide at least once in the last 12 months. At the state level, this figure was 13%. The most common reasons Atlanta students cited for considering suicide were related to the demands of school work or academic performance, problems with peers (e.g., friends, social media or bullying) and family issues.
- The number of Atlanta teen births has dropped by 65% in the past two decades: The total number of births among teens ages 15 to 19 has plummeted since 2004 (the first year recorded on the KIDS COUNT Data Center), from 1,021 to 358 in 2020. See births for younger teens compared to older teens.
- There has been a 30-year decline in teen births to women who were already moms: In 2020, 16% of Atlanta teen births were to young women under age 20 who were already mothers, close to the national average of 15% and down from Atlanta’s 27% figure in 2011. The city’s data for this measure goes back to 1990, when this figure was 36%. It has steadily decreased since then.
More Data and Resources About Youth and Young Adults
Access all data for Atlanta and other communities in Georgia and all other youth and young adult data in the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Learn more about the challenges facing youth, as well as opportunities to support them, in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Thrive by 25® announcement. Additional resources to explore:
- Expanding Economic Opportunities for Young People in Atlanta (Blog and Report)
- Improving Community Safety Through Public Health Strategies: Lessons from Atlanta and Milwaukee (Report)
- Changing the Odds: Progress and Promise in Atlanta (Report)
- How Young Adults View Social Connectedness and Access Resources (Report)
- The Benefits of Workforce Exposure and Career Programming for Youth and Young Adults (Blog)
- Georgia Student Health Survey, Georgia Department of Education
- Child Health Data Dashboard for Atlanta Public Schools, Georgia Department of Education
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