Two Key (and Often Missed) Points on Youth and Employment

May 03, 2012

By Linda Harris

Paul Krugman recently wrote about youth and employment in the New York Times article "Wasting Our Minds," but there were two points missing that time and again get overlooked in discussions about education and the employment of our graduates.

We are a lot closer to Europe than we think—for many young Americans, it is worse.  While, overall youth unemployment is 16.4 percent—black youth have a significantly higher unemployment rate of 23.3 percent. One-half of black youth in America who lack a high school diploma and are not enrolled in school are not employed.  In Europe, these young people would be a part of the NEETs: ‘not in employment, education or training.' Youth who find themselves in this situation often have no life preserver to get back on track.

Beyond a better job market and college affordability, youth would benefit from a significant investment in education and training programs. We must develop policy to address the employment and education needs of youth and it will require spending. The Ryan budget plan clearly does not go in this direction. Beyond cutting federal student aid, it proposes to consolidate job-training programs.  Following suit, House Leadership introduced a bill that would gut any dedicated education and job-training resources for low-income and out-of-school youth, effectively wiping away services for more than a quarter of a million youth and leaving these very vulnerable citizens in a precarious situation.

Right now, we should be strengthening resources for youth—not weakening them.

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