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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

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."107 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.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.

Indicator ED5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by age and race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2020
Indicator ED5: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by age and race and Hispanic origin, 2000–2020

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. The percentages represent an average based on responses to the survey questions for the months that youth are usually in school (January through May and September through December). Results are based on 9 months of data. 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. Data reflect the impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

  • In 2020, 10% of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working. This is an increase from 2019 (8%) after remaining roughly unchanged over the prior 20 years.
  • The percentage of Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth neither enrolled in school nor working has declined since 2000.
  • Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth had higher rates of detachment from work and school than White, non-Hispanic youth. In 2020, 11% of Black, non-Hispanic youth and 11% of Hispanic youth were neither enrolled in school nor working compared with 8% 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 2020, 14% of youth ages 18–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working compared with 5% of youth ages 16–17. A little less than half of older youth were enrolled in school and not working in 2020 (48%) compared with 34% in 2000.

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107 Lewis, K., & Gluskin, R. (2018). Two futures: The economic case for keeping youth on track. Measure of America of the Social Science Research Council. http://www.measureofamerica.org/PSID/