A Profile of Youth and Young Adults in Baltimore
The age span from 14 through 24 marks a critical stage of development. During this phase, young people experience profound physiological changes and must navigate increasing autonomy while forming their identity, expanding their socioemotional and life skills, advancing their education, acquiring job training and more. This period of time is also a window of opportunity for parents, caregivers and caring adults — as well as programs, investments and policies — to support young people and their future.
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The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Center, in collaboration with local partners, provides data on the well-being of youth and young adults in Baltimore. This data is wide-ranging and explores demographics, poverty, education, employment, health, teen births and more.
Key Findings on Baltimore’s Youth
While issues such as poverty, mental health, dating violence and obesity remain serious challenges for young people, Baltimore has made significant gains in the areas of education, engaging disconnected youth, and reducing juvenile arrests, tobacco use and teen births.
Issues such as poverty, mental health, dating violence and obesity remain serious challenges for young people in Baltimore. At the same time, the city has reported meaningful improvements in other areas, including educational outcomes, engaging disconnected youth and reducing both juvenile arrests and teen births. Below is a breakout of some key findings by topic.
- Baltimore has 24,785 youth ages 14 to 17. These residents represented 21% of the city’s child population in 2021
- Poverty has been on the rise among Baltimore’s children. The city’s child poverty rate spiked from 24% in 2018 to 35% in 2021. Nationally, the child poverty rate was much lower — just 17% — in 2021.
- In 2021, nearly 1 in 3 young adults living in Baltimore were poor. In the last decade, young Baltimoreans, ages 18 to 24, experienced high poverty rates (with the statistic ranging from about 30% to 35% between 2011 and 2017). More recently, the poverty rate of the city’s young adults dipped to 22% in 2019 and then jumped back up to 30% in 2021 — effectively erasing any progress made over the last decade.
- While the high school dropout rate for Baltimore students has improved, it sits well above the statewide rate.. The city’s four-year adjusted high school dropout rate hovered between 15% and 16% from 2017 to 2019 before falling to 12.5% in 2021. By comparison, Maryland’s dropout rate was 7.4% in 2021. The city’s four-year adjusted graduation rate, on the other hand, has been stable in recent years and decreased by a percentage point from 70% in 2020 to 69% in 2021.
- Only 2% of Baltimore’s teens, ages 16 to 19, were out of school and without a high school diploma in 2021. This measure has improved substantially over the past 15 years. The city’s share of teens who were both out of school and without a high school diploma dropped from 13% in 2005 (the first year with Baltimore data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center) to just 2% in 2021. This rate bested the state and national averages for the first time in 2019 and 2021.
The Transition to Adulthood
- The share of teens in Baltimore who are not in school and not working has fallen by more than 50% since 2015. Young people, ages 16 to 19, who were not in school (full- or part-time) or employed (full- or part-time) fell from 15% in 2015 to 7% in 2021. This statistic was sitting well above state and national averages for more than a decade, but Baltimore’ rate is now on par with the national rate (7%) and nearly matches Maryland’s rate (6%).
- In 2021, about 1 in 6 young adults across Baltimore were not in school, not employed and had only a high school diploma. This statistic helps to gauge if young people, ages 18 to 24, are struggling to transition to adulthood. The share of young adults in this category fell from a high of 25% in 2009 to 14% in 2019 before slightly increasing to 16% in 2021.
- The share of young Baltimoreans who had completed or were enrolled in college jumped by 35% in the last 15 year. One positive change for the city: The percentage of young residents, ages 18 to 24, who fit this statistic has steadily increased since 2006, climbing from 43% in 2006 to 58% in 2021. The city rate now exceeds both the statewide (55%) and national (49%) averages.
- Baltimore’s juvenile arrest rate plunged by more than 80% from 2005 to 2019. The city’s arrest rate for juveniles, ages 10 to 17, fell sharply — from 1,522.3 arrests per 10,000 youth to 274.5 arrests per 10,000 youth — over the 14 year period where data is available. The city’s 2019 rate, which covers arrests for both violent and nonviolent crimes, bested the 2019 state rate (312.6 arrests per 10,000 youth) for the first time since 2005.
- 1 in 7 Baltimore high schoolers reported experiencing physical dating violence. In 2018–19, 14% of high school students citywide reported being physically hurt by someone they were dating. This rate is higher than in previous years and exceeds the statewide average by 2 percentage points.
- Across Baltimore, 40 teens ages, 15 to 19, died in 2020. While the city’s annual count fluctuates, it has hovered between 20 and 50 deaths per year in recent years. This statistic has also increased each year for the last two years.
- Nearly 2 in 5 high schoolers across Baltimore were overweight or obese in 2018–19. This rate jumped from 32% in 2013–14 to 38% in 2018–19. The city rate continues to exceed the statewide average, which was 29% in 2018–19.
- Tobacco use declined among Baltimore’s high schoolers. The share of high school students who were actively using tobacco products declined from 29% in 2014–15 to 23% in 2018–19. During this same period, marijuana use also decreased (23% to 21%) while alcohol use increased (19% to 22%).
- Children in Baltimore became more likely to lack health insurance in 2021. The rate of uninsured children climbed from 4% in 2019 to 5% in 2021. This rate translates to 4,000 of the city’s children lacking health insurance in 2021. It runs higher than the statewide rate (4%) and equivalent to the national rate (5%) for that same year.
- Baltimore high schoolers reported an uptick in persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. The share of students impacted across the city rose from 28% in 2013–14 to 32% in 2018–19. This local trend mirrored the shift seen among high school students statewide.
- Nearly 1 in 5 high school students across Baltimore seriously considered attempting suicide. This statistic increased from 16% in 2013–14 to 18% in 2018–19.
- The teen birth count has plummeted across Baltimore over the past decade. The number of births by teenagers, ages 15 to 19, has fallen by more than half — from 1,047 in 2011 to 485 in 2020. See births for younger teens compared to older teens
- The teen birth rate across Baltimore has fallen dramatically since the early 2000s The rate of live births per 1,000 teens, ages 15 to 19, has fallen 43 percentage points — starting at 71.1 in 2003 and last reported as 27.8 in 2019. Despite this progress, the citywide rate still sits above the statewide rate of 13.9 live births per 1,000 teens.
- The city’s share of teen births by women who were already moms continues to fall. In 2020, 14% of teen births were by women, under the age of 20, who were already mothers. This rate sits well below the city’s starting point of 34% in 1990 and just below the national average of 15% in 2020.
More Data and Resources on Baltimore Youth and Young Adults
Go to the KIDS COUNT Data Center for more data on how youth and young adults are faring in Baltimore, Maryland and nationally. Learn more about the challenges youth face, as well as opportunities to support them, in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Thrive by 25® announcement.
Blog Post: How Baltimore Is Helping Students Transition From High School
Report: How Young Adults View Social Connectedness and Access Resources
Blog Post: The Benefits of Workforce Exposure and Career Programming for Youth and Young Adults