Monday, October 03, 2011

DC is Ripe for the Picking When it Comes to Reconnecting Disconnected Youth

DCAYA is pleased to announce that our report, Ripe for the Picking: Opportunities for Private Investment to Affect Disconnected Youth in Washington, DC, has been enthusiastically received by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. This report reflects the research done to date on this population as well as an overview of the policy and public funding landscape that currently exists for disconnected youth in the District of Columbia. In recognition of its publication we are providing here an overview of what this report is about: disconnected youth in DC.

“Disconnected” simply means youth that are neither in school nor working… NOT connected to school or work. Experts agree youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not doing either of these things are at an extreme risk of not growing into productive members of society. We would like to think that between the ages of 16 and 24 most people are finishing high school, entering college and transitioning into first jobs (likely with a few stints in part-time employment opportunities such as a summer job or working a few hours a week after class). However, this is becoming the road less travelled for large segments of the population, especially economically disadvantaged and system-involved youth. Granted some alternative options have become available to youth who deviate from the “normal” path that, if navigated correctly, re-engage and re-connect young people to education and employment, but as illustrated by the persistence of disconnection in communities across the country these options are not always enough to allow re-connection for large numbers of youth.

Greater Washington Research at the Brookings Institution recently analyzed 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) data and found that a total of 85,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 lived in the District. About 28,000 of those youth lived in households with an income less than 200% of the federal poverty level and had not achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher. Of that 28,000, nearly 9,000 were not in school and were unemployed or not in the labor force or looking for work. That means one in 10 youth aged 16 to 24 were neither in school nor working. For low-income youth without a bachelor’s degree that number rose to one in three.[i] To make matters worse, that ACS data was from 2009. The fallout from the recession has continued for the past two years here in the District and young people have been one of the groups most affected by its effects such as high-unemployment and increased rates of poverty.[ii] Although we don’t yet have 2011 ACS data to analyze it is highly likely that the number of out-of-school, out-of-work youth in the District today is even higher than the numbers from 2009.

Long story short: disconnected youth in DC are a major problem.

We know from years of practice and research that young people need proper support to grow into healthy and productive adults, and disconnected youth are no exception to that rule. However, if you read our report (abridged version attached) you’ll notice that at present, supports targeted towards disconnected youth are at a bare minimum. DCAYA along with other organizations and individuals are working to change that situation, but until we can force movement on this critical issue we rely on the devoted followers of our blog to help us disseminate the valuable information in our report.

A copy of the full report is available here.

Please keep in mind this report was developed specifically for funders who were interested in gaining a better understanding of where to dedicate their limited resources. DCAYA’s recommendations at the end of the paper are where we believe an infusion of funding will have the greatest benefit to the current population of disconnected young people and are not exhaustive of all the areas that could benefit disconnected youth.

[i] Strengthening Educational and Career Pathways for D.C. Youth. p. 5-6.

[ii] For an examination of the historic youth unemployment during recent years, see Sum, Andrew & Joseph McLaughlin. 2011. The Steep Decline in Teen Summer Employment in the U.S., 2000-2010 and the Summer 2011 Teen Job Market Disaster: Another Bummer Summer. Boston, MA: Center for Labor Market Studies.

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