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YOUTH DISCONNECTION IN AMERICA

Welcome! This site is a visualization of the information contained in Measure of America's latest report, A Disrupted Year: How the Arrival of Covid-19 Affected Youth Disconnection. Explore here and then read the full report! A note on the data: The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic severely disrupted the federal statistical collection and curation processes. These disruptions resulted in lower American Community Survey response rates not only from the very groups most likely to be out of school and work, such as low-income, Black, and Latino households, but also during the initial months of the pandemic, when the economy shed literally millions of jobs, sending the youth disconnection rate through the roof. Although the Census Bureau took several steps to shore up the 2020 survey data by cross-referencing additional government data sources, the Bureau nonetheless released it with a host of caveats and urged users to exercise caution when comparing 2020 data to previous years’ data. These caveats suggest that the estimates we provide in this report understate the magnitude of youth disconnection in 2020; we believe that the actual rates, in other words, are at least this high and likely higher. That said, these data are still the most comprehensive and reliable available. For additional context and detail, please see Appendix 1 of A Disrupted Year.

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

NATIONALLY

Disconnected youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working. The 2020 youth disconnection rate is 12.6 percent, or 4,830,700 young people. As noted above, we believe this rate to be an underestimate of the true extent of disconnection in 2020. Either way, this 12.6 percent rate signals a Covid-fueled reversal of the decade-long decline in the share of the country’s young people neither working nor in school. Between 2010 and 2019, the youth disconnection rate fell 27 percent, from 14.7 percent in 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession to 10.7 percent in 2019. This improvement was driven largely by the steady increase in youth employment in the years following the Great Recession.
BREAKDOWN BY RACE & ETHNICITY & BY GENDER
The youth disconnection rate varies by race and ethnicity and by gender; Native Americans have the highest rate, 23.4 percent, Asians the lowest, 7.3 percent.
 
 
CONTRASTING PROFILES: CONNECTED VS. DISCONNECTED YOUTH
Who are disconnected youth? Young people both not working and not in school. This definition captures the categorical difference between disconnected and connected young people, but the two groups differ in many ways that go beyond their current employment and educational status. For example, disconnected women are more than four times as likely to be mothers as connected women. Usually, we include an updated profile in our yearly reports; however, because of the data challenges of 2020, we did not feel comfortable doing so this year. The following data are from 2019. Explore more differences between connected youth and disconnected youth.




A DEEPER DIVE ON YOUTH WITH A DISABILITY
Disability is not a monolithic category. The American Community Survey, the source for our disconnected youth calculations, asks six questions about difficulties a person may have with physical or mental activities. If the answer to any one of the six following questions is yes, the person is categorized as having a disability:
Each respondent with a disability could report anywhere between one and six of these types of difficulties. Disconnected youth with disabilities are twice as likely to have three or more types of difficulties, greatly compounding their challenges.
Disconnected Youth
Connected Youth
Three or More Difficulties
Two
One

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

BY STATE

Young people are disconnected at rates that range from under 8 percent in Nebraska to over twice that in others, with Arkansas, Alaska, and New Mexico facing the greatest challenges. Click a state to see how its youth disconnection rate has changed since 2008.

19.6%

14.4%

13.2%

12.1%

10.5%

7.8%

BREAKDOWN BY RACE & ETHNICITY
The youth disconnection rate for white youth is lower than the rate for Black youth in every state for which data are available except West Virginia and Hawaii. There are eight states where the Latino rate is the same as or lower than the white rate.

27.8%

18.1%

14.6%

12.1%

9.4%

2.2%

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

BY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

In the country’s congressional districts, youth disconnection ranges from 5.3 percent in California District 52, in San Diego County, to 25.0 percent in Michigan District 14, in the greater Detroit area.

25.0%

15.6%

13.3%

11.5%

9.6%

5.3%

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

BY METRO AREA

In the country’s 100 most-populous metro areas, youth disconnection ranges from 6.9 percent in greater Provo, Utah to 19.7 percent in the Albuquerque, New Mexico metro area.

19.7%

14.2%

12.7%

11.3%

10.0%

6.9%

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

BY NEIGHBORHOOD CLUSTER

Generally speaking, differences in youth disconnection rates within metro areas are much greater than the differences between them; this section explores these differences using a geographical unit called Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs), which we colloquially refer to as "neighborhood clusters." PUMAs are areas defined by the US Census Bureau; there are roughly 2,400 nationwide and they have populations of at least 100,000 people. The Census Bureau divides large counties into many PUMAs; LA County, for instance, has 69 PUMAs. And the Bureau combines sparsely populated counties, creating new geographies with sufficiently large populations to allow for calculation of the youth disconnection rate. For instance, Arizona’s Navajo and Apache Counties are joined together in a single PUMA, as are Wyoming’s Sheridan, Park, Teton, Lincoln, and Big Horn Counties. Measure of America's PUMA calculations provided first-ever published rates for communities across the country, starting with our 2019 report on youth disconnection, Making the Connection. The data featured here are from 2016–2020.

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

BY COUNTY

Measure of America has not yet obtained a custom data tabulation from the US Census Bureau required to update this section, which currently displays 2015–2019 data. The highest county rate is found in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, 81.0 percent, followed by 76.1 percent in Stewart County, Georgia, and 71.3 percent in Hancock County, Georgia. As you can see from the gray parts of the map, many counties have populations that are too small for reliable youth disconnection estimates. In such cases, refer to the PUMA map above, which shows values for groups of small counties.

81.0%

20.4%

15.5%

12.3%

9.5%

2.2%

BREAKDOWN BY RURAL / URBAN AREA
Rural counties have a youth disconnection rate of 17.3 percent, on average, compared to 11.2 percent in urban centers and 9.9 percent in suburbs.

YOUTH DISCONNECTION

OVERVIEW

Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, aims to breathe life into numbers, using data to foster understanding of our shared challenges and support for people-centered policies. We care about human development—the process of building people’s capabilities, improving their well-being, and expanding their opportunities to live freely chosen lives of value. Young adulthood is when people develop many of the capabilities required to live a good life: knowledge and credentials, social skills and networks, a sense of mastery and agency, an understanding of one’s strengths and preferences, and the ability to handle stressful events and regulate one’s emotions, to name just a few. Measure of America is thus concerned with youth disconnection because it impedes human development, closing off some of life’s most rewarding and joyful paths and leading to a future of limited horizons. Disconnected youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working. The youth disconnection rate tells us a lot about the opportunities available to teens and young adults from different racial and ethnic groups and in different parts of the country. Understanding who disconnected youth are, the challenges they face, and where they live is the first step to helping them. Doing so is critical for all of us. Youth disconnection’s harms accrue not only to young people themselves, but also to society at large. Society pays a price in terms of reduced competitiveness, lower tax revenues, and higher health, social services, and criminal justice costs, to name just a few.
How have young people fared during the pandemic? Covid-19 upended our lives in 2020 and 2021 and continues to pose countless health, educational, and economic challenges today, a full two years after the pandemic first took hold. Though they were less likely than older people to become seriously ill, teenagers and young adults suffered grave losses in these covid years. The late teens and early twenties typically offer young people a host of experiences that allow them to build the capabilities required to live flourishing lives as adults. In 2020, many of these experiences either disappeared outright or were reduced to stripped down versions of their former selves. These losses are reflected in the 2020 national youth disconnection rate of 12.6 percent—an upward spike that reverses a decade-long trend of falling rates. And, due to data collection challenges in 2020 that are discussed above, we believe that this rate is a sizeable underestimate of the share of young people neither working nor in school that year. Based on 2020 monthly youth unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tend to track closely with the youth disconnection rate, we predicted in our 2020 and 2021 reports that disconnection skyrocketed in the spring of 2020. This appears to have been the case: 2020 data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) indicate that the national disconnection rate in April 2020 was 20 percent—two in ten young people across the country were neither working nor in school—and by June the rate reached 28 percent, nearly three in ten young people. An astonishing 3.7 million fewer youth were employed in July 2020 than in July 2019. The maps and graphs above allow you to explore the latest youth disconnection data for yourself. What’s happening in your metro area? How are different racial and ethnic groups faring in your state? Which places were most- and least-impacted by the pandemic? Find out! If you want to understand more about youth disconnection, read our latest report, A Disrupted Year: How the Arrival of Covid-19 Affected Youth Disconnection.
METHODOLOGICAL NOTE
The youth disconnection rates above are Measure of America calculations of data from the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. State, congressional district, metro area, and Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) data are from 2020. Time series data are one-year estimates from the relevant year. County data are from 2015–2019. Read the full methodological note here. The metro areas featured above, officially called Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), are designated by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The full names of MSAs as well as maps of their boundaries are available here.

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CREDITS
Site designed by Laura Laderman, in partnership with Humantific, who provided key visual language and design elements.