Tying Together Place and Race: New Data on Youth Disconnection

By Rashaun Bennett

A new study from Measure of America, “Zeroing In on Place and Race: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities,” confirms that youth disconnection is a nationwide problem requiring federal, state, and local action.  It also reveals racial and geographic disparities, demonstrating where resources are most needed.

Across the U.S., 5.5 million youth are disconnected.  While a large number of them are White (2.5 million), other racial groups are disconnected at far higher rates.  According to the study, 21.6 percent of Black youth, 20.3 percent of Native American youth, and 16.3 percent of Latino youth are disconnected—compared to just 11.3 percent of White youth.  Youth disconnection is linked to residential segregation, which concentrates poverty and marginalizes people of color. Highly segregated metro areas have been correlated to high rates of disconnection for Black youth.

The consequences are severe for youth and communities.  Disconnected youth are three times less likely to have a high school diploma and two times more likely to live in poverty.  Further, disconnected girls are three times more likely to have children than girls enrolled in school.  In 2013, the total cost of youth disconnection was $26.8 billion; this includes lost earnings, public assistance, medical care, and criminal justice expenses.  Now more than ever, it is crucial to invest in high-quality K-12 education, programs and pathways that prevent disconnection, and employment and education assistance for youth currently disconnected.

CLASP has recommended common-sense policy changes around systems building and program delivery to reduce disconnection. Additionally, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, provide strong opportunities for federal investment in dropout recovery and employment strategies.  It’s critical that we seize this moment and give young people the resources they need to connect to school and work and fulfill their potential.