Special Report

Cities With the Most Idle Youth

Winston-Salem
Source: Thinkstock

5. Winston-Salem, NC
> Disconnected youth rate: 11.6%
> Overall unemployment rate: 4.7%
> Median household income: $43,665
> Pct. adults with bachelor’s degree: 25.2%

Education is one of the more important determinants of gainful employment. Just 85.2% of Winston-Salem adults have at least a high school diploma, and just 25.2% have at least a bachelor’s degree, each lower than the corresponding national rates. When adults have less educational background, they have greater difficulty finding jobs, especially higher-paying jobs. Also, their children are less likely to attend school or find employment.

According to Brookings, youth are more likely to be disconnected — neither working nor in school — when they are 20 to 24 years of age than when they are 16 to 19 years old. Without an education, it becomes more difficult to find a job. One in every four 20 to 24 year olds in Winston-Salem is unemployed, the highest such proportion of any major metro area.

Memphis Park Downtown Skyline
Source: Thinkstock

4. Memphis, TN-MS-AR
> Disconnected youth rate: 11.9%
> Overall unemployment rate: 4.4%
> Median household income: $45,844
> Pct. adults with bachelor’s degree: 26.4%

Across the country, African American youth are more than twice as likely than white American youth to be disconnected — out of school and out of work. In Memphis, where African Americans make up 45% of the population, African American youth are even more likely to be neither working nor in school. While African Americans make up 25.3% of disconnected youth nationwide, in Memphis they make up 78.8% — the largest such share of any metro area.

Disconnected youth are more likely to remain unemployed later in life as well as engage in criminal behavior. More than one in five Memphis residents live in poverty, one of the higher poverty rates of any major metro area. There are also 1,034 violent crimes reported in Memphis per 100,000 residents, the most of any major metropolitan area considered and almost three times the national rate.

bakersfield lazy
Source: Wikimedia Commons

3. Bakersfield, CA
> Disconnected youth rate: 12.4%
> Overall unemployment rate: 10.6%
> Median household income: $47,644
> Pct. adults with bachelor’s degree: 15.4%

Just 74.5% of adults in Bakersfield have at least a high school diploma, far lower than the 86.9% national high school educational attainment rate. Those residents without diplomas may find it more difficult to land a job. The unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds in Bakersfield is 23.1%, the second highest of any major metropolitan area.

Latino and foreign-born youth are far more likely to be disconnected — neither working nor in school — than white Americans. In Bakersfield, more than half the population is Hispanic or Latino. Further, city youth are somewhat more likely to be disconnected than the typical Hispanic and Latino American.

Fresno, California
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Fresno, CA
> Disconnected youth rate: 12.9%
> Overall unemployment rate: 9.7%
> Median household income: $43,423
> Pct. adults with bachelor’s degree: 19.7%

Nearly 13% of Fresno’s youth are disconnected — they do not have a job and are not currently furthering their education. Just one in five 16 to 19 year olds are employed, and less than 60% of 20 to 24 year olds have a job, each among the lowest rates among large metropolitan areas.

As is often the case in places with large shares of disconnected youth, the problems of the youth are a reflection of more general problems. For example, the high unemployment rate among young adults extends to the overall population. Fresno’s unemployment rate among 25 to 54 year olds of 10.8% is the highest in the country and is much higher than the national rate of 6.2%. Similarly, it is not surprising that a large share of Fresno’s youth is not pursuing higher education considering that many older adults never did so either. Less than 20% of Fresno’s adults have a bachelor’s degree, versus a national share of 30.1%.

1. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
> Disconnected youth rate: 13.9%
> Overall unemployment rate: 7.2%
> Median household income: $34,801
> Pct. adults with bachelor’s degree: 17.9%

Poor and minority communities tend to have disproportionately larger shares of disconnected youth. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission is 91.2% Hispanic and Latino, and 34.0% of its residents are living in poverty, each the largest such share of any major metropolitan area. Hispanic and Latino residents are about twice as likely to be out of school and out of work as white Americans, and even more so in McAllen. Of all 16 to 24 year olds in the metro area, 13.9% are both out of work and out of a job, the highest rate of disconnected youth of any of the 100 largest metropolitan areas.

For many disconnected youth, it is not their choice to be neither in school nor employed. With an overall unemployment rate of 7.2%, it is more difficult to find a job in McAllen than it is in almost any other city nationwide.

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