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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Youth Neither Enrolled in School nor Working

Youth ages 16–19 who are neither in school nor working are detached from these core activities, both of which play an important role in one's transition from adolescence to adulthood. Such detachment, particularly if it lasts for several years, hinders a youth's opportunity to build a work history that contributes to future higher wages and employability.109 The percentage of youth who are not enrolled in school and not working is one measure of the proportion of young people who are at risk of limiting their future prospects.

Indicator Ed5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2012
Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2012

NOTE: Data relate to the labor force and enrollment status of persons ages 16–19 in the civilian noninstitutionalized population during an "average" week of the school year. School refers to both high school and college. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately.

Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

  • During 2012, some 8 percent of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working. Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth were more likely than White, non- Hispanic youth to be neither enrolled in school nor working. In 2012, about 11 percent of both Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth were neither in school nor working, compared with 7 percent of White, non-Hispanic youth.
  • Older youth ages 18–19 are almost five times as likely to be detached from school and work activities as youth ages 16–17. In 2012, about 14 percent of youth ages 18–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 3 percent of youth ages 16–17.
  • Since 2000, the proportion of older youth, ages 18–19, who were employed and not enrolled in school declined by about one-half for both Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth.
  • Two-thirds of youth were enrolled in school and not employed in 2010. This proportion has been trending up since 2000, when it was about half of youth.110 Almost three-fourths of Black, non-Hispanic youth were enrolled in school and not working, the highest proportion among races and ethnicities.
  • In 2012, some 18 percent of youth were both enrolled in school and employed. The proportion of youth both enrolled in school and employed has been trending down since 1998, when it peaked at 31 percent, but declined at a slightly faster pace since the beginning of the recent economic downturn in 2007.
  • Across the 30 OECD countries with comparable data, an average of 8 percent of 15–19 year olds were neither in education nor in the work force.111 This percentage ranged from between 3 and 4 percent in Slovenia, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands to 8 percent in the United States to more than 12 percent in Italy (13 percent), Spain (13 percent), Mexico (19 percent), Israel (23 percent), and Turkey (26 percent).

table icon ED5.A HTML Table, ED5.B HTML Table, ED5.C HTML Table (web only)

109 Fernandes, A., and Gabe, T. (2009). Disconnected youth: A look at 16- to 24-year-olds who are not working or in school. (CRS Report No. R40535). Retrieved from Congressional Research Service Web site: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf.

110 For more information, refer to table ED5.C at http://childstats.gov/americaschildren11/tables/ed5c.asp (available on the Web only).

111 OECD. (2012). Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2012-en.