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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

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.118 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. It is also recognized internationally by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of which the United States is a member, as a way to measure the transition from school to work among young adults.119

Indicator ED5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2016
Indicator ED5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by gender and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2016

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.

  • In 2016, 8 percent of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared to 9 percent in 2015. Overall, this figure has remained roughly unchanged over the past 20 years.
  • The percentage of Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth neither enrolled in school nor working has declined since 1985.
  • Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth had higher rates of detachment from work and school. In 2016, 10 percent of Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 8 percent of White, non-Hispanic youth.
  • Older youth ages 18–19 are almost three times as likely to be detached from school and work activities as youth ages 16–17. In 2016, 13 percent of youth ages 18–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 5 percent of youth ages 16–17. A little less than half of older youth were enrolled in school and not working in 2016 (47 percent), compared with 34 percent in 2000.

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118 Fernandes-Alcantara, A. (2015). Disconnected youth: A look at 16- to 24-year-olds who are not working or in school (CRS Report No. R40535). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf.

119 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2015). Education at a glance interim report: Update of employment and educational attainment indicators. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/EAG-Interim-report.pdf