Teens Not in School and Not Working, by County (65,000 Residents or More)

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Learn More About Disconnected Youth

Measures of Disconnected Youth on Kidsdata.org
This indicator reports the percentage of youth ages 16-19 who are not enrolled in school (full- or part-time) and not employed (full- or part-time). Unemployed youth includes both those who are unemployed but looking for work and those who are unemployed but not looking for work.

This indicator is derived from the American Community Survey (ACS). However, the estimates presented here differ from the estimates of "idle" youth on the ACS website because ACS does not include youth who are unemployed but looking for work.

Data are available for: counties with 65,000+ residents, as single-year estimates; counties with 20,000+ residents, as 3-year estimates; school districts and counties with 10,000+ residents, as 5-year estimates; and legislative districts, as 5-year estimates.
Disconnected Youth
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs
Bullying and Harassment at School
Family Income and Poverty
Community Connectedness
Food Security
High School Graduation
Foster Care
Math Proficiency
Emotional/Mental Health
Gang Involvement
Juvenile Arrests
Reading Proficiency
School Safety
School Connectedness
Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions
Teen Births
Why This Topic Is Important

Sometimes referred to as “disconnected youth,” older teens who are neither in school nor working are more likely than other youth to struggle with mental illness or substance abuse, encounter violence, and become teen parents (1). Further, disconnected male youth are more likely to engage in illegal behavior, and female youth are more likely to become dependent on public aid (2). Because engagement in school or the workforce is critical to the transition from adolescence to adulthood, detachment from those settings—especially detachment that spans several years—can impede development toward productive, self-sufficient adult lives (3). Education and workforce detachment can have long-term negative effects on employability and earning potential (1, 3). The effects also can extend beyond the individual; one study estimates that in 2011, youth disconnection cost U.S. taxpayers $93 billion in lost tax revenues and increased social service costs (4).

Family poverty and parental unemployment are among the key factors that place teens at higher risk for becoming disengaged from education and work (1). Nationwide, American Indian, African American/Black, and Latino youth are more likely than their white or Asian peers to be disconnected from school and employment (5). Other particularly vulnerable youth include those in the juvenile justice, foster care, and special education systems (1).

For more information on disconnected youth, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Hair, E. C., et al. (2009). Youth who are “disconnected” and those who then reconnect: Assessing the influence of family, programs, peers and communities (Research Brief No. 2009-37). Child Trends. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=youth-who-are-disconnected-and-those-who-then-reconnect-assessing-the-influence-of-family-programs-peers-and-communities-3

2.  Child Trends. (2015). Youth neither enrolled in school nor working. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=youth-neither-enrolled-in-school-nor-working

3.  Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2014). America’s young adults: Special issue, 2014. U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved from: http://www.childstats.gov/pubs/pubs.asp?PlacementID=2&SlpgID=27

4.  Bridgeland, J. M. & Milano, J. A. (2012). Opportunity road: The promise and challenge of America’s forgotten youth. Civic Enterprises & America’s Promise Alliance. Retrieved from:

5.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2014). The 2014 KIDS COUNT data book. Retrieved from: http://www.aecf.org/resources/the-2014-kids-count-data-book/
How Children Are Faring
According to 2013 estimates, 8.2% of youth ages 16 to 19 in California were neither in school nor working. The percentage of youth in California who were disconnected has remained relatively steady between 2007 and 2013 (per single-year estimates). County-level percentages of teens not in school and not working ranged from 4.1% to 12.6%, among counties with 20,000 residents or more in 2011-13.

Policy Implications

With a substantial number of youth and young adults neither working nor in school in recent years, there has been an increased focus on the policy issues surrounding youth disconnection (4, 6). In the long-term, if these youth are not re-engaged they will struggle to find employment and will earn lower incomes (2, 4, 5). For society at large, youth disconnection contributes to significant costs related to having an uneducated and unskilled workforce, increased crime and incarceration, and a greater need for public assistance (2, 4, 5).

Policy solutions range from those that prevent youth from becoming disconnected in the first place to programs and practices that re-engage disconnected youth in school, work, and society. According to research and subject experts, policies that could prevent and reduce youth disconnection include:

  • Ensuring that struggling students graduate from high school by promoting access to school counselors and youth mentors, and supporting drop-out prevention programs and flexible learning environments that allow students to attain credits through non-traditional paths (1, 2, 3).
  • Strengthening GED programs to ensure that youth successfully transition to higher education or employment (1, 2, 6).
  • Supporting high school, community college, and community-based Career Pathways, Linked Learning, and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs that link youth to internships, apprenticeships, life skills classes, and job placement (1, 2, 3, 6).
  • Expanding employment opportunities for youth by implementing mechanisms that provide incentives to employers to hire and train disconnected youth, such as the Disconnected Youth Opportunity Tax Credit, while allowing them to receive high school or GED credits (3, 7).
  • Ensuring that taxpayer-funded local employment services, including local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), provide targeted job training and employment opportunities for youth and young adults facing the most barriers to employment (3, 5).
  • Supporting cross-sector community collaborations that implement integrated approaches to at-risk and disconnected youth (1, 3, 5, 6). For example, the California Connected by 25 Initiative developed multi-agency, community partnerships to improve education, housing, and employment outcomes for young adults exiting foster care (6).
  • Promoting collaborative use of data across agencies to identify disconnected youth, better share information, track services provided, evaluate outcomes, and hold decision-makers accountable (3, 4, 6, 8). For example, the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati decreased drop-out rates and increased college enrollment for at-risk youth through such a data-based effort (8).
  • Increasing the flexibility of funding streams and revising eligibility requirements of government programs so that disconnected youth can more easily access employment training, health and mental health services, and other support (1, 3).
  • Encouraging youth engagement and youth development programs, such as youth advisory councils and forums, that allow youth to become active decision-makers in their own lives, take on leadership roles, and contribute to the community (3, 4, 6).

For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit American Youth Policy Forum, Campaign for Youth, and White House Council for Community Solutions. Also see Policy Implications under the following topics on kidsdata.org: High School Graduates; Unemployment; Truancy, Suspensions & Expulsions; Juvenile Arrests; and Foster Care.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  American Youth Policy Forum. (2011). Key considerations for serving disconnected youth. Retrieved from: http://www.aypf.org/publications/documents/DY%20Paper%207.19.11.pdf

2.  Belfield, C. R., et al. (2012). The economic value of opportunity youth. Civic Enterprises. Retrieved from: http://www.civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/econ_value_opportunity_youth.pdf

3.  Bridgeland, J. M. & Milano, J. A. (2012). Opportunity road: The promise and challenge of America’s forgotten youth. Civic Enterprises & America’s Promise Alliance. Retrieved from: http://gradnation.org/resource/opportunity-road-promise-and-challenge-americas-forgotten-youth

4.  Lewis, K. & Burd-Sharps, S. (2015). Zeroing in on place and race: Youth disconnection in America’s cities. Measure of America. Retrieved from: http://ssrc-static.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/MOA-Zeroing-In-Final.pdf

5.  Hair, E. C., et al. (2009). Youth who are “disconnected” and those who then reconnect: Assessing the influence of family, programs, peers and communities (Research Brief No. 2009-37)Child Trends. Retrieved from:

6.  Stuart Foundation. (2011). Promising strategies from the California Connected by 25 initiative: Tips and resources to improve outcomes for transition age foster youth. Retrieved from: http://www.stuartfoundation.org/OurStrategy/vulnerableYouthInChildWelfare/Initiatives/CaliforniaConnectedBy25

7.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2012). Youth and work: Restoring teen and young adult connections to opportunityRetrieved from: http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B3213DA55-8216-4065-B408-D7A521CDD990%7D

8.  White House Council for Community Solutions. (2012). Final report: Community solutions for opportunity youth. Retrieved from: http://www.serve.gov/new-images/council/pdf/12_0604whccs_finalreport.pdf

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Disconnected Youth