Expanding Economic Opportunities for Young People in Atlanta
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.
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 14–24, 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.