Wednesday, March 15, 2017

One-fifth of rural youth are not in school or the workforce; the label is 'disconnected'

More than one-fifth of rural youth are disconnected,  meaning they are not in school or the workforce, says a study by Measure of America, a non-partisan, non-profit initiative of the Social Science Research Council. The study found that among youth 16-24 in 2015, 4.9 million—12.3 percent—were disconnected, and the numbers were much higher in rural areas, at 20.3 percent, and even higher in the rural South, at 24 percent. (U.S. News & World Report graphic)
Overall numbers varied widely by ethnicity. Among Native Americans more than one-fourth—25.4 percent are disconnected. Among black youth the number is 18.9 percent, followed by Latino (14.3), white (10.1) and Asian (7.2). New Mexico had the highest rate, at 17.4 percent, followed by West Virginia (17) and Mississippi (16.7). The lowest rates were in New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont, Minnesota, and Iowa, which were all under 8 percent.

The overall 12.3 percent rate is down from 16 percent "from 2010's post-recessionary peak and is slightly lower than the 12.6 percent reading seen in 2008, before the recession pushed the national unemployment rate into double-digits," Andrew Soergel reports for U.S. News & World Report. The report states: "Just as the Great Recession swelled the ranks of disconnected young people, the economic recovery reduced them; at least part of the drop in youth disconnection is due to the nationwide decline in the unemployment rate for workers of all ages between 2010 and 2015."

Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America, said rural high schools tend to offer fewer educational options, such as career training, "resulting in less engaging curricula," Michael Walsh reports for Yahoo News. "Sparsely populated areas have fewer schools to choose from and fewer businesses to apply to for jobs," which leads to a growing number of young people migrating to cities.

Lewis told Walsh, “There was a real disconnect with the way more urban and suburban people feel about the future and the direction the country is going in. Kids in those areas are much more likely to find a way to be engaged in school, and they’re working more. It really does reflect a difference in the lived experience of these of rural areas versus metropolitan America... In the past, a young person with just a high school degree could probably find a way to make a living in a rural area. Whereas now, there aren’t many sort of jobs that pay a wage where a young person could really get a good start."

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