A Profile of Youth and Young Adults in Baltimore

Updated December 31, 2023 | Posted March 21, 2023
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A closeup photo of a young black woman's face

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 near­ly 90% from 2005 to 2020. The city’s arrest rate for juve­niles, ages 10 to 17, fell sharply — from 1,522.3 arrests per 10,000 youth to 175.9 arrests per 10,000 youth — over the 15-year peri­od where data is avail­able. The city’s 2020 rate, which cov­ers arrests for both vio­lent and non­vi­o­lent crimes, was slight­ly above the 2020 state rate (171.8 arrests per 10,000 youth) after best­ing the state rate in 2019 for the first time since 2005.
  • More than 1 in 8 Bal­ti­more high school­ers report­ed expe­ri­enc­ing phys­i­cal dat­ing vio­lence. In 202122, 13% of high school stu­dents city­wide report­ed being phys­i­cal­ly hurt by some­one they were dat­ing. This rate is down 1 per­cent­age point from 201819, but 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.


  • More than 2 in 5 high school­ers across Bal­ti­more were over­weight or obese in 202122. This rate jumped from 32% in 201314 to 42% in 202122. The city rate con­tin­ues to exceed the statewide aver­age, which was 31% in 202122.
  • Tobac­co use fell by almost 50% among Baltimore’s high school­ers. The share of high school stu­dents who were active­ly using tobac­co prod­ucts declined from 29% in 201415 to 15% in 202122. Dur­ing this same peri­od, mar­i­jua­na use also decreased (23% to 19%), while alco­hol use ini­tial­ly increased and then declined (from 19% to 22%, then down to 16%).
  • 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. 

Men­tal Health

  • Per­sis­tent feel­ings of sad­ness and hope­less­ness surged among Bal­ti­more high school­ers. The share of stu­dents across the city who report­ed feel­ing so sad or hope­less for two weeks in a row that they stopped doing usu­al activ­i­ties rose from 28% in 201314 to 43% in 202122. This local trend mir­rored a spike seen among high school stu­dents statewide.
  • Near­ly 1 in 4 high school stu­dents across Bal­ti­more seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered attempt­ing sui­cide. This sta­tis­tic increased from 16% in 201314 to 23% in 202122, two per­cent­age points high­er than the statewide aver­age in 202122.

Teen Births

  • 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

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