For some young people, transitioning into adulthood only comes with the usual challenges of learning to drive and battling with acne. For others, the obstacles faced are more difficult to overcome. In July 2019, WalletHub published the results from a study of at-risk youth all across the United States. Its implications are cause for concern.
At-Risk Youth Statistics 2019 — The Overview
According to the findings, one in nine young Americans are neither enrolled in school nor employed. This can expose them to greater risks of poverty at home and violence within their communities. The study also showed that some states performed much better than others when it came to keeping their youth productive.
There was a clear pattern. Northern states, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire had lower percentages of disconnected youth. The same was true of some western states, such as Utah and Hawaii. One of the most surprising things to note is that most of the states where youths did better also have higher costs of living.
States from all corners of America made it to the top 15 on the list of places with the highest rate of at-risk youth. However, the south — particularly the southeast — is overwhelmingly represented.
“Southern states have some of the highest shares of disconnected youth,” Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst observes. She tells Parentology, “Louisiana tops this with 19% of residents aged 18-24 neither working, nor attending school, and without any degree beyond high school. Some of the reasons for this could be poverty, lack of professional opportunities, lack of family support, or ineffective school disciplinary measures.”
According to Gonzalez, there were some key differentiating factors between the states that performed well and those that did not. The National Assessment of Education Progress evaluates student achievements across America, while the Armed Services uses the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) to assess candidates for potential placement.
“The states that top the list have several things in common,” Gonzalez notes. “For example, the low percentages of [National Assessment of Educational Progress]-proficient students and AFQT testers scoring above 50, as well as high youth poverty rate, averaging around one-third of the population aged 18-24. The states at the top of the ranking also lack tuition waiver programs for youth in foster care.”
As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, there’s no issue America is unable to tackle when the problem is based on resources. The trick is getting the relevant government officials to agree. Gonzalez believes if the government invested more heavily in education and expanding work opportunities, there would be greater improvement.
In the interim, she believes parents can also take matters into their own hands whenever possible.
“Parents should be aware of the problem and not be afraid to reach out to the school or social services for help,” she says. “They could also look for special programs where their children could become civically involved in the community. Lastly, emotional support is extremely important, as is encouraging children to pursue an education or career.”