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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2019

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. A new report shows that "a disconnected youth will suffer an earnings penalty of over $30,000 per year in middle adulthood as compared to someone who came from a family with the same income but who was in school or working those critical, transitional years to adulthood."111 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 age and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2018
Indicator ED5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by age and race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2018

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 2018, 8% of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working. This estimate remains unchanged from the prior 2 years and 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 than White, non-Hispanic youth. In 2018, 12% of Black, non-Hispanic youth and 9% of Hispanic youth were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 7% of White, non-Hispanic youth.
  • Older youth ages 18–19 are three times as likely to be detached from school and work activities as youth ages 16–17. In 2018, 12% of youth ages 18–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 4% of youth ages 16–17. A little less than half of older youth were enrolled in school and not working in 2018 (47%), compared with 34% in 2000.

table icon ED5A HTML Table | ED5B HTML Table | ED5C HTML Table

111 "High school completer" refers to those who completed 12 years of school for survey years 1980–1991 and those who earned a high school diploma or equivalent (e.g., a GED certificate) for all years since 1992.