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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Youth Neither Enrolled in School nor Working

Youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled 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. If this detachment lasts for several years, it can hinder a youth's opportunity to build a work history that contributes to future higher wages and employability.70 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. Analysis done by the Congressional Research Service finds that a greater share of minority youth, particularly Black males, are disconnected, and that their rates of disconnection have been higher over time. Disconnected youth are also twice as likely to be poor as their connected peers.70

Figure 26: Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2015
Percentage of youth ages 16–19 who are neither enrolled in school nor working by race and Hispanic origin, 1985–2015

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 from 2003 onward are collected separately and combined for reporting according to 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity. For data prior to 2003, 1977 OMB Standards were used. Data from 2003 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Beginning in 2003, those in each racial category represent those reporting only one race. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

  • In 2015, 9 percent of youth ages 16–19 were neither enrolled in school nor working. This figure was unchanged from 2014 and little different 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 had a higher rate of detachment from work and school, at 12 percent, than Hispanic youth (10 percent) and White, non-Hispanic youth (7 percent) in 2015.
  • For youth ages 16–17, the rate of detachment was less than half the rate of older youth ages 18–19. In 2015, 5 percent of both Black, non-Hispanic youth and Hispanic youth ages 16–17 were neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with 4 percent of White, non-Hispanic youth in this age group.
  • Older youth, ages 18–19, had a higher rate of detachment from work and school at 13 percent. Black, non-Hispanic youth in this age group saw a detachment rate of 19 percent in 2015, compared with 16 percent for Hispanic youth and 11 percent for White, non-Hispanic youth. These figures were either the same as or almost unchanged from 2014.

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70 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 http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40535.pdf