Report on Employment Experience of Teens Shows Disconnects

(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

The Brookings Institute, a public policy think-tank, has released a report titled “Employment and Disconnection Among Teens and Young Adults: the Role of Place, Race, and Education,” which examines the impact the Great Recession had on employment prospects for young people and specifically for individuals between 16 and 24-years-old.

The primary activity for people in this age cohort is school. School is the main focus of teens until they graduate high school, and young adults will often continue school full-time, with some combining work and school. However, many of these young people will gain work experience by working part-time, during holidays, or throughout the summer months. These opportunities provide valuable skills, expand their networks, and develop adult relationships.

The report uses data measuring the employment and unemployment of teens and young adults from the American Community Survey from 2008-2014. Researchers also spent time studying “disconnected youth,” who are neither working nor in school. These people lose out on key educational and employment experiences and are subject to increase risk for negative outcomes: long spells of unemployment, poverty, criminal activity, substance abuse, and incarceration.

Brookings researchers found that, initially, whites typically have the highest employment rates and the lowest unemployment rates of all ages. By prime-age working years, however, what the researchers identify to be 24 to 54-years-old, Asian-Americans have the lowest unemployment rates. Asians’ low employment rates are driven by strong rates of school enrollment and degree attainment, which serve them well on the labor market as adults.

From teenage years until late adulthood, African Americans consistently have lower employment rates and higher unemployment rats than their peers. Unlike Asian-Americans, their employment rates do not improve with age.

Interestingly, however, educational attainment indicate much larger disparities in employment statistics than do race. People without post-secondary credentials do much worse on the labor market than those with higher levels of education. African-Americans are much less likely to obtain a postsecondary education.

The report also reveals that employment and unemployment rates vary substantially by place. Many of the best-performing metro areas in the Midwest, West, or regions with highly educated residents, including state capitals and university towns, are boons for educated young people seeking employment. One-third of the United States’ economic output is located along the eastern seaboard and is fueled by big cities like Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston.

Nationally, an estimated 3 million young people (7.6%) between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered to be disconnected. Worryingly, the majority of these people are between 20 and 24-years-old. The problem of disconnectedness becomes much more acute after young people have graduated high school. These disconnected young people tend to be people of color, and rates of disconnectedness are subject to metropolitans areas. In some cases, rates of disconnection among young blacks and Hispanics are 3 to 6 times higher than among whites.

For interested readers, the full report is available online.