Lack of Higher Education Hinders Unemployed US Youth

One group in the United States who is not enjoying the low national unemployment rate is 18- to 24-year-old young adults who lack higher education, according to a new report.

For them, the unemployment rate is 17 percent, according to recent research by the Brookings Institution. By comparison, the unemployment rate for the general population was 3.8 percent in March.

“In theory, the path to employment providing financial security in adulthood is simple: finish high school, enroll in and complete college or training that is affordable and a good fit, gain some work experience along the way, and launch a career,” wrote Brookings’ Martha Ross and Natalie Holmes in their report. “Meet the millions of young adults who are out of work.”

The report characterized the younger unemployed as bilingual Karina, 19, who graduated high school recently and is considering continuing her studies; single-mom Monica, 23; Juan, 20, who attends community college and has worked seasonal jobs; 19-year-old Stephanie who left state university after a year because of financial concerns; Matt, 24, who has an associate’s degree but who lost his job at a car dealership when the business closed; and Amy, 22, who has a bachelor’s and volunteers as a tutor.

Ross and Holmes described the young unemployed in relation to education:

18 to 21 year olds with a high school diploma or less (37% of total out of work youth)
22 to 24 year olds with a high school diploma or less (25%)
18 to 21 year olds with at least some education beyond high school (17%)
22 to 24 year olds with at least some education beyond high school (15%)
22 to 24 year olds with bachelor’s degrees (6%)



 

In the first group, three-quarters live with their parents or grandparents “in modest circumstances,” sharing a median family income of $40,000. “They have limited connection to the work world, as only 30 percent worked in the past year, and less than half (45 percent) are looking for work. Relatively small shares are in school (8 percent) or have children (11 percent).” Nearly 40 percent live below the poverty line.

Seventy percent had a high school diploma.

The second group “are the least likely of all the groups to live with their parents (57 percent), and the most likely to have children (24 percent).” Their median family income of $36,000, the lowest among the groups, put 43 percent of them below the poverty line. One-third worked in the past year, less than half were looking for work, and only 2 percent were enrolled.

Sixty-six percent had a high school diploma.

In the third group, more than 90 percent have some college but no degree. (Of these unemployed, 8 percent have an associate or bachelor’s degree.) Fifty-one percent are in school, and 72 percent seek work. Nearly half (43 percent) worked in the past year. Three out of four live with parents or grandparents with low to moderate incomes, almost 30 percent live below the poverty line with a median family income of $54,000.

Ninety-two percent had some college.

In the fourth group, about one in four earned an associate or bachelor’s degree, but two-thirds of them live with parents or grandparents in a household with a median family income of $52,000. They are the second most likely of the groups to be in school (27 percent), to have children (16 percent), to be seeking work (62 percent), and to have worked in the past year (44 percent). One in three live below the poverty line.

Seventy-nine percent had some college, 14 percent had an associate degree, and 8 percent had a bachelor’s degree.

Among the fifth and last group, nearly half (47 percent) worked in the past year, and 58 percent are looking for work. Two-thirds live with their parents who have a median family income of $92,000, considerably higher than other groups. Only one in four lives below the poverty line, however, which could reflect that they are early in their career, when earnings are typically lower, or perhaps a deeper level of disadvantage.

All in that group had attained a bachelor’s degree.

English ability among all groups was not a persistent problem, Brookings reported, with 9 percent of the 2.3 million young people out of work reporting limited English skills. Hispanics dominated the groups of lower education out of work. Whites dominated the higher education out of work groups.

The gender split was not wide in any group.

 

“This path does not appear to work equally well for all, particularly in light of the effects of the Great Recession and the declining rates of employment among teens and young adults since about 2000,” the authors wrote.

 

 



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