Welcome! This site is a visualization of the information contained in Measure of America's latest report, Ensuring an Equitable Recovery: Addressing Covid's Impact on Education. Explore the latest disconnected youth data here and then read the full report!A note on the 2020 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. Fortunately, the Census Bureau was able to adapt its data collection processes to address the continuing effects of Covid-19 by the time it administered the 2021 ACS and released the 2021 data without cautions or caveats. For additional context and detail, please see Appendix 1 of A Disrupted Year.
Disconnected youth are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working. Here in the United States, organizations that work with this population began to use the term ”opportunity youth” in 2012, a term coined by the White House Council for Community Solutions. Internationally, the most commonly used term to describe this population is “NEETs,” an acronym that stands for “not in employment, education, or training.”
The 2021 youth disconnection rate is 12.1 percent, or 4,690,900 young people. The 2021 figure is an improvement on the 2020 rate, 12.6 percent, but still falls far short of the 2019 rate of 10.7 percent. Between 2010 and 2019, the youth disconnection rate fell 27 percent, driven largely by the steady increase in youth employment in the years following the Great Recession. On the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic, the youth disconnection rate was lower than it had been in over a decade. But between 2019 and 2021, the rate increased 13.1 percent.
BREAKDOWN BY RACE & ETHNICITY & BY GENDER
The youth disconnection rate varies by race and ethnicity and by gender; Native Americans have the highest rate, 23.5 percent, Asians the lowest, 7.2 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.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:
Self-care difficulty: Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing?
Hearing difficulty: Is this person deaf or does he or she have serious difficulty hearing?
Vision difficulty: Is this person blind or does he or she have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?
Independent-living difficulty: Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have difficulty doing errands alone, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping?
Ambulatory difficulty: Does this person have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?
Cognitive difficulty: Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?
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. A striking finding is that the share of all young people with at least one disability
increased sharply between 2019 and 2021. In 2019, 6.7 percent of young adults ages 16–24 had a disability; in 2021, 7.8 percent of young adults did: 3,045,000 young adults. This increase was driven by cognitive disability, and the cognitive disability rate for young adults in this age group increased far faster than for other age groups (see page 14 of Ensuring an Equitable Recovery). Due to the increased share of disability in young adults, an additional 457,000 young adults are disabled in 2021 (more than accounted for by population change alone. Covid-19 or Covid-associated mental health challenges are the likely culprits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly one in five American adults who had Covid-19 continued to suffer its effects in the form of long Covid, in which Covid-19 symptoms like intense fatigue and brain fog continue for more than three months.
Three or more difficulties
Young people are disconnected at rates that range from 7.0 percent in North Dakota to over twice that in others, with Alaska, Louisiana, and New Mexico facing the greatest challenges. Click a state to see how its youth disconnection rate has changed since 2008.
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. There are three states where the Latino rate is the same as or lower than the white rate.
BY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
In the country’s congressional districts, youth disconnection ranges from 5.2 percent in Iowa District 3, covering Des Moines and the southern part of the state, to 24.5 percent in New York District 15, in the Bronx.
BY METRO AREA
In the country’s 100 most-populous metro areas, youth disconnection ranges from 6.8 percent in greater Provo, Utah and greater Ogden, Utah to 19.9 percent in the Memphis, Tenneessee metro area.
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 2017-2021.
Measure of America has not yet obtained a custom data tabulation from the US Census Bureau required to update this section, which currently displays 2016–2020 data.The highest county rate is found in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, 80.1 percent, followed by 74.8 percent in Hancock County, Georgia, and 69.6 percent in Stewart 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.
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. These data were last updated in 2021 as part of Measure of America's update report A Decade Undone, which uses 2019 data.
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 and continues to pose countless health, educational, and economic challenges today, a full three 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 pandemic not only robbed young people of important milestones, experiences, and opportunities; it also reversed a decade of progress in reducing youth disconnection. After reaching an historic low point in 2019 at 10.7 percent, the youth disconnection rate spiked in 2020 and has remained high at 12.1 percent in 2021. Though Covid-19 affected everyone, its burden fell disproportionately on low-income communities of color, which are also disproportionately home to the highest rates of youth disconnection. And there are reasons to be concerned about the future: recent research suggests that the impact of the pandemic could continue to fuel youth disconnection in years to come. Nationwide educational testing data reveal a disturbing pattern: low-income, Black, and Latino students disproportionately remain behind where they would have been were it not for the pandemic. Middle school students have struggled the most, which is particularly worrisome given that difficulties with core academic classes during middle school is a risk factor for dropping out of high school.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, Ensuring an Equitable Recovery: Addressing Covid's Impact on Education. This report features the latest opportunity youth data.
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, and metro area data are from 2021. Time series data are one-year estimates from the relevant year. County data are from 2016–2020 and Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA) data are from 2017-2021. 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.
TAKE THE YOUTH DISCONNECTION
Site designed by Laura Laderman, in partnership with Humantific, who provided key visual language and design elements.