New data from researchers at UC Davis and Fresno State present a disturbing picture about disconnected youth in Central California. As many as 17 percent of valley teens are either not in school and don't have a job. That's more than double the statewide average of 8.2 percent. Left unaddressed, the disconnect could worsen the valley's poverty problem and contribute to other social ailments from crime to health issues.
Lead researcher Anne Visser of UC Davis says that while nationally youth employment rates have yet to recover to pre-recession levels, the issue is especially concerning in the valley.
Visser: "Combined with the national forecast and the valley's current economic climate, this is really sort of the perfect storm brewing on the horizon and really is a challenge for youth's economic prospects in the valley, for all youth not just those who are disconnected but for those who are in the labor market themselves."
Visser says that the lack of educational attainment makes the employment problem even worse, as young people aren't able to gain the skills to become more employable, creating a long term legacy.
Visser: "When you really think about the first job that young people get in the labor market it really sets the path and the course for their overall lifetime economic opportunity. "
Visser's research is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The next phase of research, which involves Fresno State's Institute for Public Anthropology aims to talk to disconnected youth and gain insights into the problem and access to programs from local providers. She says rural communities are traditionally underserved by state and federal programs. Her goal is to learn more about what needs to be done to help disconnected youth locally.
From the press release announcing the report:
Research has shown disconnected youth — individuals who are not working or going to school — are more likely to experience negative social and economic outcomes as adults, including persistent poverty, long-term unemployment, poor health and substance abuse.
According to the report, African-American/non-Hispanic black youth experience the highest rates of disconnection from school and work in the Valley at 22.3 percent, followed by Latino/a youth at 12.3 percent and American Indian/Alaskan native youth at 11.9 percent.