Special Report

States With the Most At-Risk Youth in 2021

Spencer Platt / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Numerous studies have shown that being disadvantaged as a youth correlates strongly with adverse outcomes in adulthood. Disadvantage is manifested in many ways, including low-income households, low-quality schools, low educational attainment, and unstable circumstances. 

Children as a group are disproportionately poor: a higher percentage of children live in poverty than adults, according to the US Census Bureau. And a higher percentage of black children live in poverty than white ones.

To compile a list of the states with the most (and least) at-risk youth, as of July 2021, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data compiled by the credit reporting and advice site WalletHub. The site compared 15 key metrics, variously weighted, to arrive at a risk score for all 50 states (the higher the score, the higher the risk). The metrics included rates of teen pregnancy and youth incarceration, drug use and heavy drinking, obesity, and depression, among other things, with most data applying to an age range of 18 to 24. These are the states where children are struggling with obesity.

To the WalletHub score, we added each state’s percentage of disconnected youth (those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed) as determined by the Social Science Research Council’s Measure of America project and the poverty rate for children under 18 as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates.

Click here to see the states with the most at-risk youth in 2021

Some patterns are clear from the list. Half of the 10 states with the lowest scores are located in the South. These are some of the poorest states in the country, and also the ones where the legacy of segregation is most apparent. By contrast, the states in the North and particularly the Northeast do relatively well. 

Those faring best are Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Minnesota. While far from perfect, these are relatively affluent states that place a high value on public education, access to health care, and other public services. Massachusetts, for example, passed a health care reform law in 2006 that resulted in 98% of residents having health insurance. These are the 25 states with the worst health care systems.

50. Massachusetts
> WalletHub score: 21.52
> Disconnected youth: 7.3% — 5th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 11.6% — 9th lowest

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49. New Jersey
> WalletHub score: 24.37
> Disconnected youth: 10.5% — 24th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 12.3% — 12th lowest

48. New Hampshire
> WalletHub score: 33.56
> Disconnected youth: 8.5% — 8th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 7.1% — the lowest

47. Connecticut
> WalletHub score: 34.10
> Disconnected youth: 9.7% — 18th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 14.1% — 22nd lowest

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46. Minnesota
> WalletHub score: 34.69
> Disconnected youth: 6.5% — 2nd lowest
> Child poverty rate: 11.2% — 7th lowest

45. Utah
> WalletHub score: 34.73
> Disconnected youth: 7.3% — 5th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 9.9% — 2nd lowest

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44. Maryland
> WalletHub score: 35.61
> Disconnected youth: 10.8% — 22nd highest
> Child poverty rate: 12.0% — 11th lowest

43. Virginia
> WalletHub score: 36.02
> Disconnected youth: 8.9% — 12th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 13.4% — 18th lowest

42. Vermont
> WalletHub score: 36.82
> Disconnected youth: 7.8% — 6th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 10.2% — 4th lowest

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41. New York
> WalletHub score: 37.02
> Disconnected youth: 10.8% — 22nd highest
> Child poverty rate: 18.1% — 16th highest

40. Illinois
> WalletHub score: 38.30
> Disconnected youth: 10.3% — 22nd lowest
> Child poverty rate: 15.7% — 23rd highest

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39. Rhode Island
> WalletHub score: 38.79
> Disconnected youth: 9.6% — 15th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 14.0% — 21st lowest

38. Iowa
> WalletHub score: 39.03
> Disconnected youth: 8.3% — 7th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 13.0% — 15th lowest

37. Washington
> WalletHub score: 40.85
> Disconnected youth: 10.8% — 22nd highest
> Child poverty rate: 12.0% — 11th lowest

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36. Nebraska
> WalletHub score: 40.98
> Disconnected youth: 7.2% — 3rd lowest
> Child poverty rate: 11.0% — 6th lowest

35. Maine
> WalletHub score: 40.99
> Disconnected youth: 9.6% — 15th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 13.8% — 20th lowest

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34. Wisconsin
> WalletHub score: 41.12
> Disconnected youth: 8.7% — 11th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 13.5% — 19th lowest

33. California
> WalletHub score: 41.18
> Disconnected youth: 10.9% — 21st highest
> Child poverty rate: 15.6% — 24th highest

32. Hawaii
> WalletHub score: 41.36
> Disconnected youth: 9.2% — 13th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 12.4% — 13th lowest

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31. Colorado
> WalletHub score: 45.01
> Disconnected youth: 8.6% — 10th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 10.9% — 5th lowest

30. Florida
> WalletHub score: 45.08
> Disconnected youth: 11.9% — 16th highest
> Child poverty rate: 17.7% — 17th highest

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29. North Carolina
> WalletHub score: 45.88
> Disconnected youth: 11.1% — 19th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.5% — 11th highest

28. North Dakota
> WalletHub score: 45.92
> Disconnected youth: 5.4% — the lowest
> Child poverty rate: 10.2% — 4th lowest

27. Pennsylvania
> WalletHub score: 46.97
> Disconnected youth: 10.5% — 24th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 16.9% — 20th highest

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26. Michigan
> WalletHub score: 47.03
> Disconnected youth: 10.6% — 25th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 17.6% — 18th highest

25. Kansas
> WalletHub score: 48.02
> Disconnected youth: 8.6% — 10th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 14.7% — 23rd lowest

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24. Arizona
> WalletHub score: 48.16
> Disconnected youth: 13.2% — 11th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.1% — 13th highest

23. Ohio
> WalletHub score: 49.16
> Disconnected youth: 10.3% — 22nd lowest
> Child poverty rate: 18.4% — 15th highest

22. Texas
> WalletHub score: 49.79
> Disconnected youth: 12.7% — 13th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.2% — 12th highest

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21. Tennessee
> WalletHub score: 51.70
> Disconnected youth: 13.7% — 10th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.7% — 9th highest

20. Idaho
> WalletHub score: 52.90
> Disconnected youth: 13.1% — 12th highest
> Child poverty rate: 13.2% — 17th lowest

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19. South Dakota
> WalletHub score: 54.44
> Disconnected youth: 9.7% — 18th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 15.0% — 25th lowest

18. Kentucky
> WalletHub score: 55.25
> Disconnected youth: 14.3% — 8th highest
> Child poverty rate: 21.7% — 5th highest

17. Oregon
> WalletHub score: 55.36
> Disconnected youth: 11.2% — 18th highest
> Child poverty rate: 13.1% — 16th lowest

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16. Missouri
> WalletHub score: 56.74
> Disconnected youth: 11.0% — 20th highest
> Child poverty rate: 17.1% — 19th highest

15. Indiana
> WalletHub score: 57.28
> Disconnected youth: 10.8% — 22nd highest
> Child poverty rate: 15.2% — 25th highest

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14. Georgia
> WalletHub score: 57.44
> Disconnected youth: 12.6% — 14th highest
> Child poverty rate: 18.7% — 14th highest

13. Montana
> WalletHub score: 58.25
> Disconnected youth: 9.7% — 18th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 14.9% — 24th lowest

12. New Mexico
> WalletHub score: 58.51
> Disconnected youth: 16.7% — 3rd highest
> Child poverty rate: 24.9% — 3rd highest

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11. Delaware
> WalletHub score: 58.64
> Disconnected youth: 10.3% — 22nd lowest
> Child poverty rate: 16.4% — 22nd highest

10. Oklahoma
> WalletHub score: 58.97
> Disconnected youth: 11.9% — 16th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.9% — 8th highest

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9. Alaska
> WalletHub score: 63.41
> Disconnected youth: 18.1% — the highest
> Child poverty rate: 13.0% — 15th lowest

8. South Carolina
> WalletHub score: 64.74
> Disconnected youth: 12.3% — 15th highest
> Child poverty rate: 19.7% — 9th highest

7. Wyoming
> WalletHub score: 65.21
> Disconnected youth: 9.9% — 19th lowest
> Child poverty rate: 11.6% — 9th lowest

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6. Arkansas
> WalletHub score: 67.38
> Disconnected youth: 14.7% — 6th highest
> Child poverty rate: 22.1% — 4th highest

5. West Virginia
> WalletHub score: 67.43
> Disconnected youth: 17.8% — 2nd highest
> Child poverty rate: 20.1% — 7th highest

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4. Alabama
> WalletHub score: 69.24
> Disconnected youth: 14.5% — 7th highest
> Child poverty rate: 21.4% — 6th highest

3. Nevada
> WalletHub score: 71.12
> Disconnected youth: 13.8% — 9th highest
> Child poverty rate: 16.9% — 20th highest

2. Mississippi
> WalletHub score: 71.15
> Disconnected youth: 15.8% — 5th highest
> Child poverty rate: 28.1% — the highest

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1. Louisiana
> WalletHub score: 71.35
> Disconnected youth: 16.4% — 4th highest
> Child poverty rate: 27.0% — 2nd highest

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