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15 Percent of U.S. Youth Out of School and Work [AUDIO]

It’s a disturbing statistic. Nearly 6 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in school or working, according to a new report by the Opportunity Nation coalition.

Sleeping Teenager
Flickr User Dan DeLuca

“Teenagers and young adults tend to have higher unemployment rates than older people, so it’s not surprising, but it is a bit distressing. This is 15 percent of all people ages 16 to 24 who are not acquiring the skills they need to progress in this world,” said Deborah Carr, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University.

The report tracked internet access, college graduation rates, income inequality and public safety among other factors and identified states where young people were doing well. Vermont, Minnesota and North Dakota topped the list of supportive states, while Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico were at the bottom.

“I think the numbers are largely a result of a lack of opportunity partly because this high percentage of 15 percent reflects the fact that we’ve been in a recession for quite some time now. But, there is also a pretty big variation across different states in terms of the proportion who are not working and who are not in school. So, that suggests that it’s something about the opportunities whether it’s job openings or funding for college or job training programs in different states that help some young people more than others,” said Carr.

“I think there’s also less of a stigma today for a young person being unemployed.”

“We know there are a lot of college educated new graduates who are coming out without jobs because there are not jobs for them,” said Carr. “So, there is less of a stigma today, but that doesn’t mean that these young people are any less distressed. They want to find jobs, they want to get apartments and ultimately get married and have kids some day. It’s hard to do those kinds of things if you don’t have a financial base and if you can’t predict where you’re going. The uncertainty is very distressing.”

At the same time, young people are more practically-minded these days.

“I think we see fewer students going into liberal arts, english and literature majors because they recognize that they need very concrete skills, like accounting or pre-med, to enter this very difficult job market today. So, it’s not laziness or anything like that. These kids have a very strong work ethic, but unfortunately, the economy is not providing the jobs for them that they need,” said Carr.

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