Disconnected youth—teens who are neither enrolled in school nor working—may be more likely than their peers to experience poor health, lower incomes, and unemployment as adults. They are also more likely to become involved in illegal activity and become dependent on public aid. In 2013, disconnected youth cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $27 billion in costs related to incarceration, public assistance, lost tax revenues, and lost earnings.
In 2011-2015, eight percent of California teens ages 16-19 were neither in school nor working. The percentage of disconnected youth in counties ranged from a low of three percent in Yolo County to a high of 14 percent in Mendocino County.
Trends in the rates of disconnected youth varied among counties, cities, school districts, and legislative districts, while the statewide trend saw little change.
Cities Re-Connecting Their Youth
Daly City and Madera are among cities that have seen substantial improvement in re-engaging their youth since 2005-2009. Daly City has improved by five percentage points and Madera has improved by eight percentage points, both dropping below the California state average.
Cities with Increasing Rates of Disconnected Youth
West Covina and Yuba City are among cities that have seen an increase in percentages of disconnected youth since 2005-2009. West Covina has increased by five percentage points and Yuba City has increased by six percentage points, both near or above the California state average.
Policy solutions range from those that prevent youth from becoming disconnected in the first place to those that re-engage disconnected youth with school and work.
Since teen engagement is related to early school achievement and positive early learning experiences, effective solutions include home-visiting programs for struggling families, quality preschool, and safe and supportive K-12 schools to ensure children have access to quality education and stable, caring environments. To engage older youth, their participation in youth advisory councils, volunteer or community projects, and service learning allows them to become active decision-makers, take on leadership roles, and contribute to the community. Help in creating such opportunities can come from improved statewide coordination and cross-sector community collaboration, both of which can foster integrated approaches to support at-risk and disconnected youth.