Opportunity Youth, sometimes referred to as disconnected youth, are between the ages of 16 and 24 and are neither in school nor working. Many of these youth have disabilities, are homeless, or involved with the juvenile justice or child welfare systems. The effects of this disconnection follow individuals for the rest of their lives, resulting in lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, and negative physical and mental health outcomes. Young adults who are not in school or working represent untapped potential for our nation. They cost taxpayers $93 billion annually and $1.6 trillion over their lifetimes in lost revenues and increased social services.
Who are Opportunity Youth?
- 4.9 million youth ages 16-24 were not in school or working in 2015
- 41% live in a poor household compared to 27% of youth who are in school or working
- 15% have a disability compared to 5% of youth who are in school or working
- 7.2% of Asian American youth
- 10% of White youth
- 14.3% of Latino youth
- 18.9% of Black youth
- 25.4% of Native American youth
Opportunity Youth are heavily represented in rural areas and small towns. By definition, Opportunity Youth are not in school or working, and only 4% achieve a bachelor’s degree by age 24 compared to 8% of youth who are in school or working.
Opportunity Youth experience poverty at higher rates, 44% vs. 16.8% (2014) than youth who are in school or working.
Part 2 of this 3-part series explored connecting youth to jobs, during and after the pandemic.