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Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), today released Making the Connection: Transportation and Youth Disconnection, its latest report on youth disconnection. Disconnected youth, also referred to as Opportunity Youth, are teens and young adults ages 16–24 who are neither working nor in school. Making the Connection reports that although the US youth disconnection rate fell to 11.5 percent in 2017, the seventh consecutive annual decline, the pace of improvement slowed and the rate for black young people increased.

The report, which was supported by the Schultz Family Foundation and debuted at the Aspen Institute Opportunity Youth Forum convening in Philadelphia, is the seventh report in the Measure of America Youth Disconnection series that began in 2012. As public awareness of the problem of youth disconnection has grown and economic conditions have improved, the youth disconnection rate has fallen steadily. Nonetheless, challenges remain. Research released last year found that if we assisted all 4.5 million disconnected youth, more businesses would prosper, and a city like Atlanta could see an extra $150 million in annual revenue.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • Nationally, the youth disconnection rate continued its decline to 11.5 percent in 2017, the seventh consecutive annual decline from its peak of 14.7 percent in 2010. The current rate of 11.5 percent is lower than the 2008 pre-recession rate.
  • The rate of decline is slowing, however, indicating a leveling out of progress in youth employment and suggesting that economic growth is necessary but not sufficient to address the obstacles that young people who remain disconnected face.
  • The national disconnection rate for black young people increased between 2016 and 2017, from 17.2 percent to 17.9 percent, despite remaining flat or falling for all other groups. Black young men have a much higher disconnection rate than black young women, 20.8 percent as compared to 14.8. Disconnection rates for black young people are astonishingly high in Nevada (26.6 percent), Wisconsin (26.0 percent), and Arkansas (24.5 percent).
  • Native American teens and young adults have the highest rate of disconnection, 23.9 percent, close to one in four. Asian American young people have the lowest rate of youth disconnection, 6.6 percent, though the rate varies by Asian subgroup.
  • Latino young people have far outpaced other groups when it comes to increased connection; the Latino disconnection rate fell 28.7 percent between 2010 and 2017, compared to the decrease of 22.1 percent for the country as a whole.
  • Minnesota has the lowest rate of youth disconnection (6.2 percent), followed by Iowa (7.0 percent) and Massachusetts (7.1 percent). West Virginia has the highest rate, 17.0 percent, followed by New Mexico (16.5 percent) and Mississippi (16.4 percent).
  • Metro area youth disconnection rates range from just 5.6 percent in greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, to 18.0 percent in the Memphis metro area, which includes parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

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