Expanding Economic Opportunities for Young People in Atlanta

Posted September 6, 2022, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Portrait of young Black businessman with crossed arms outdoors.

Engag­ing Atlanta’s Youth and Young Adults in Eco­nom­ic Oppor­tu­ni­ty, a new report fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, shares find­ings from a research project led by and draw­ing on respons­es from youth and young adults in Atlanta. Study authors Cre­ative Research Solu­tions (CRS) worked with five young lead­ers who, draw­ing from their expe­ri­ences, devel­oped a research strat­e­gy to bet­ter under­stand the edu­ca­tion­al and career aspi­ra­tions of Atlanta’s young peo­ple, as well as the obsta­cles they face in pur­suit of their goals.

Bar­ri­ers to Employ­ment and Entrepreneurship

While CRS’s pri­ma­ry objec­tive was to make rec­om­men­da­tions for increas­ing edu­ca­tion, employ­ment and entre­pre­neur­ial oppor­tu­ni­ties in Atlanta, it also sought to instill lead­er­ship skills in the young peo­ple who par­tic­i­pat­ed. CRS worked with Our Turn, a youth devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tion, and the Casey Foun­da­tion to sup­port the group as they recruit­ed 381 sur­vey par­tic­i­pants from the area.

Down­load the report

Based on the sur­vey results, the team made the fol­low­ing discoveries: 

  • Most respon­dents saw them­selves own­ing busi­ness­es with­in five–10 years. 
  • Black respon­dents indi­cat­ed that salary and pay were the most impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions for a future job.
  • Most respon­dents stat­ed that pover­ty or lack of resources was a major rea­son for not apply­ing to college. 
  • Most Black respon­dents saw own­ing a busi­ness as a means to achiev­ing finan­cial free­dom and security.
  • Youth and young adult respon­dents named finan­cial aid and adult men­tor­ship as the most impor­tant resources for accom­plish­ing their career goals.

In addi­tion, Black and Lati­no respon­dents cit­ed a lack of sta­bil­i­ty in their lives as a major chal­lenge to their dreams of entre­pre­neur­ship. White respon­dents com­mon­ly report­ed that a lack of a sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment was their biggest obsta­cle. Across all demo­graph­ics, respon­dents also iden­ti­fied inex­pe­ri­ence with man­ag­ing oth­ers as a bar­ri­er to success.

Sur­vey par­tic­i­pants ranged in age from 1424, with most respon­dents (78%) over the age of 18. Of those sur­veyed, 59% were Black, 22% white and 10% Lati­no. In addi­tion, the young advi­sors brought togeth­er two focus groups of teenagers and young adults to ana­lyze the data and inform the recommendations.

Rec­om­men­da­tions for Empow­er­ing Youth

Based on their find­ings, the young lead­ers offered rec­om­men­da­tions for how fun­ders can best sup­port young peo­ple in Atlanta:

  • Con­sid­er focus­ing more finan­cial resources on cap­i­tal for young entre­pre­neurs. This includes loans, grants, schol­ar­ships and oth­er finan­cial assis­tance for young peo­ple inter­est­ed in start­ing busi­ness­es in Atlanta.
  • Invest in Atlanta’s young peo­ple ear­ly in their careers. Young peo­ple enter­ing the work­force can ben­e­fit from eas­i­ly acces­si­ble finan­cial lit­er­a­cy cours­es, men­tal health resources and job train­ing pro­grams such as intern­ships and apprenticeships.
  • Increase aware­ness and access to finan­cial aid. Sup­port young peo­ple in Atlanta who are inter­est­ed in pur­su­ing a col­lege edu­ca­tion by increas­ing aware­ness of exist­ing finan­cial aid options, pro­vid­ing bet­ter edu­ca­tion on the finan­cial aid process and mak­ing aid appli­ca­tions eas­i­er to complete.
  • Address bar­ri­ers to oppor­tu­ni­ty at the source. Fun­ders should part­ner with orga­ni­za­tions that sup­port bet­ter fund­ing for under­fund­ed schools and increase young people’s access to edu­ca­tion­al resources. 
  • Get cre­ative. When it comes to encour­ag­ing young entre­pre­neurs, fun­ders should not lim­it their think­ing to tra­di­tion­al mod­els of busi­ness ownership.

Cat­a­lysts for Eco­nom­ic Opportunity

Ulti­mate­ly, the report pro­vide a start­ing point for part­ners sup­port­ing teenagers and young adults in the Atlanta area as they pur­sue high­er edu­ca­tion and future careers or launch entre­pre­neur­ial ventures.

Learn More About the Career Aspi­ra­tions of Youth in Atlanta

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