U.S. Economy Improves in 2018 Despite More Teens Disconnected From School and Work

Posted November 16, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Updates moreteensarenotinschool 2019

There’s no short­age of data indi­cat­ing that the nation’s econ­o­my has con­tin­ued to recov­er since the end of the Great Reces­sion. One exam­ple: The medi­an income for house­holds with chil­dren jumped $2,800 from 2017 to 2018 — the eighth straight year that this fig­ure has risen, accord­ing to recent­ly released Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey (ACS) data.

Yet, ACS data on teens who are not in school and not work­ing — i.e. dis­con­nect­ed youth — is less encouraging.

The per­cent­age of 16- to 19-year-olds with­in this cat­e­go­ry has held steady at 7% since 2014. How­ev­er, the num­ber of dis­con­nect­ed youth in Amer­i­ca has grown for the first time since 2010 — to 1,186,000 teens in 2018.

The con­se­quences of sev­er­ing ties to school and work are real and long-last­ing. Dis­con­nect­ed youth face a dif­fi­cult climb to finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and job secu­ri­ty, and the young par­ents among them face an even steep­er road into adulthood.

Rates of dis­con­nec­tion are high­est in the South and West, accord­ing to state-lev­el data. Six states — New Mex­i­co (12%), West Vir­ginia (12%), Louisiana (11%), Alas­ka (10%), Arkansas (10%) and Mis­sis­sip­pi (10%) — are most like­ly to have 16- to 19-year-olds not in school and not work­ing. In Puer­to Rico, 13% of all teens fit this statistic.

Com­par­a­tive­ly, just 3% of youth in Rhode Island are both unem­ployed and out of school and one state — Ver­mont — has too few dis­con­nect­ed teens to reli­ably cal­cu­late a rate.

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