Opportunity youth — previously known as disconnected youth — references young people ages 16 to 24 who are neither enrolled in school nor engaged in the labor force. According to the American Youth Policy Forum, being disconnected from education and work at this early age has lifelong ramifications, including “lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, and negative physical and mental health outcomes.” From a national perspective, United Health Foundation’s annual health rankings report shows that Minnesota had the lowest percent share of disconnected youth population (6.2%) and Georgia ranked 11th highest (13.5%) in percent share of the disconnected youth population ages between 16 to 24 in 2016. Nationally, 11.5 percent of youth fall into the “opportunity youth” category.
Percent Share of Disconnected Youth (Ages 16-24), 2017
Source: Measure of America, Youth Disconnection Report via United Health Foundation
21 County Metro
The map below symbolizes census tracts in the 21-County Atlanta metro according to the shares of a subset of disconnected youth — that’s again those between ages 16 and 19 — using the American Community Survey (ACS)’s 2013-2017 five-year rolling average.
The good news? ACS estimates show that of the more than 950 Census tracts in the 21-County metro, nearly half (46.4 percent) have no disconnected youth.
The less rosy news? The highest estimated rate of this subset of disconnected youth is really high and in some predictable areas. In Census tract 231.15 in DeKalb County, where legal facilities including the DeKalb County Juvenile Court, DeKalb County Jail and Magistrate Court-Criminal Division, ACS estimates hold that about 92 percent of youth ages 16 to 19 fall under the “disconnected youth” designation. The second-highest (75.8 percent) is Census tract 7 in Fulton County, where the Fulton County Jail is located.
Those tracts are, thankfully, the outliers. The highest rates of disconnected youth found across the rest of the metro’s Census tracts is less than 46 percent.
The map also offers the opportunity to compare this data with data on families in which no parent is in the labor force. According to the American Community Survey’s 2013-2017 data, Census Tract 18 and 106.01 in Fulton County, near downtown Atlanta, have the first and second highest percent share of children living in families with an unemployed parent (46.1 percent and 44.7 percent, respectively). One note on interpreting this data: since we’re talking about (overall) very small shares of residents falling into this category in any given Census tract, the margins of error are quite high. In the two tracts noted, for instance, the margins of error for the estimate are 39.9 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively.
Map explorer tool
Source: ACS 2013-2017
Finally, to get a lot more policy information on and discussion about opportunity youth, as well as to see some profiles of terrific Atlanta-area initiatives that try to address the challenge, check out a related post on this blog last year