Disconnected youth: All young people should be educated, healthy, and ready to thrive in the workforce.
Insights & Analyses
- Beginning in 2000, youth of color made up the largest share of disconnected youth nationally. In 21 states, the share of disconnected youth was the same or higher than the national average (12 percent).
- In 2020, Native American and Black youth have the highest percentage of disconnected youth nationally at 24 percent and 18 percent respectively.
- In 1990, the number of disconnected youth was largely driven by young women, but in recent years young men were more likely to be disconnected from school or work.
- Of the 100 largest cities, Detroit, MI had the largest share of disconnected youth (24 percent) and Madison, WI had the lowest (3 percent).
Drivers of Inequity
Youth of color become disconnected — neither working nor in school — at higher rates than White youth due to disparities in school and neighborhood poverty rates, which are the primary contributors to disconnection. Students of color are more likely to attend high-poverty schools and live in areas with concentrated poverty because of the United States' long history of racial segregation forged through historical practices such as racially exclusive housing covenants and zoning laws as well as ongoing factors such as discriminatory hiring and mortgage lending. While youth of color and White youth commit crimes at similar rates, youth of color are far more likely than White youth to be suspended from school or involved in the juvenile justice system. These experiences further increase the likelihood that youth of color will become disconnected.
Grow an equitable economy: Policies to help all youth succeed
- Create cradle-to-career pipelines for vulnerable youth and invest in early childhood education.
- Reform harsh, "zero tolerance" school discipline policies to keep youth in school and on track to graduate.
- Develop comprehensive youth employment systems and policies to promote summer youth employment across the education, juvenile justice, and child welfare systems and support policies to address youth disconnection.
- Connect youth to career paths through career academies, apprenticeships, workforce training programs, and internships.
- Remove law enforcement officers from K-12 schools and hire more counselors and support staff.
- At the federal level, lower and/or eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs, provide additional financial assistance to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, increase and expand access to Pell Grants, and eliminate current student loan debt for all.
Strategy in Action
Promise Neighborhoods help youth beat the odds. Promise Neighborhoods is an interdisciplinary, place-based initiative modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone. The program is working with more than 80 communities to ensure that all children receive the educational, health, and community supports needed to successfully transition from cradle to college and career. Using a disciplined approach, Promise Neighborhoods critically assess how to use cross-sector partnerships to not only build programs but also rebuild systems. The Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, for example, brings together 28 local agencies to coordinate services and resources for more than 1,500 students and provide parents with health and literacy classes through the Universidad de Padres (Parent's University). As of 2018, 98 percent of students pass the Kinder Readiness Test, compared to 77 percent in 2014. And, in this neighborhood, 92 percent of all children now have access to a place where they can reliably receive medical care. Learn more.