Latinas, Black Males Most "˜Disconnected'

Hispanic youths, one of the fastest-growing segments of the United States population, are poised to fill the needs of the workforce as millions of baby boomers retire in the coming years. But a new report shows that an alarming number of Hispanic and black teens and young adults, those between the ages of 16 and 24, are neither working nor in school — what the authors call "disconnected."

The study, "One in Seven: Ranking Youth Disconnection in the 25 Largest Metro Areas," found that about while about 14.7 percent of Americans overall in this age group are disconnected, Latinos in this range have a disconnection rate of 18.5 percent, and blacks have the highest rate, at 22.5 percent.

Exiting the teenage years without a job or not advancing in the classroom prevents youth from building workforce credentials and social skills, said Kristen Lewis, the report's coauthor. Absent from structured environments, youth do not learn how to handle stress.

"It really stunts human development," Lewis said. "It closes off some of life's most rewarding, joyful paths, and it really limits your long-term trajectory."

Withdrawal also perpetuates a vicious cycle of unwed pregnancies, violence, and incarceration among blacks and Latinos, said Philip Jackson, founder and executive director of the Black Star Project, a Chicago-based program that seeks to improve student attendance.

Rebuilding the African-American family structure, he stressed, is essential to graduating black males into the labor force. "A two-parent household is an oddity in many black communities," he said, which weakens some individuals' potential and prospects.

Having disconnected minority youths also hurts taxpayers. The study noted that youth disconnection for all racial groups — 5.8 million young people — cost taxpayers $93.7 billion in government support and lost tax revenue last year alone.

Below are some of the highlights of the report, produced by the Social Science Research Councilwhich compared the youth disconnection rates of the top 25 metropolitan areas:

  • Blacks: About 19 percent of African-American women are disconnected, compared with 26 percent of males, or more than one in four.
  • Latinos: More than 20 percent of Latinas are neither enrolled in school nor working, compared with their male counterparts (16.8 percent). Latino males are less likely to be enrolled in school.
  • Asian-Americans: About 8 percent of Asians are not connected to work or school, compared with whites at 11.7 percent.
  • Metro areas and Latinos: Washington, San Diego, and Chicago are the top three metro regions where Latinos are more likely to be engaged in work or school. Conversely, Boston, New York, and Phoenix have the highest rate of Latinos not working or studying.
  • Metro areas and blacks: Blacks in San Diego, Boston, and Denver had the lowest rates of youths disconnected, while blacks in Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Phoenix had the highest rates.
  • Neighborhoods: Nearly 40 percent of youths who are out of school and jobless live in households with incomes that fall below the poverty line.