Disconnected Youth

Publication Date:

Dec 26, 2018

Key facts about disconnected youth

  • In 2017, 7 percent of youth ages 16 to 19 reported being disconnected (defined as neither working nor enrolled in school), a decrease from 10 percent in (reported in 1986 and, most recently, in 2014).
  • Out of the racial/ethnic groups included in this indicator, non-Hispanic black youth had the highest rate of disconnection (10 percent), followed by Hispanic youth, non-Hispanic white youth, and non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander youth (8, 6, and 4 percent, respectively).
  • Older youth are more likely to be disconnected than their younger counterparts; in 2017, 11 percent of 18- to 19-year-olds reported neither working nor being enrolled in school, while 4 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds reported the same.

Trends in disconnected youth

From 1986 to 2017, the percentage of disconnected youth, defined as youth neither enrolled in school nor employed, decreased slightly—from 10 percent in 1986 to 7 percent in 2017—although rates fluctuated in the intervening years, reaching 10 percent again in 2014 (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

In 2017, there was no difference by gender in whether youth reported neither being in school nor working. This is a significant change from before welfare reform in 1996, when female youth were 2 to 3 percentage points more likely to be neither in school nor working. In 2017, 7 percent of both male and female youth reported being disconnected (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin

Both Hispanic and non-Hispanic black youth have higher rates of disconnection than non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander youth. In 2017, 10 percent of non-Hispanic black youth and 8 percent of Hispanic youth reported being disconnected, compared with 6 percent of non-Hispanic white youth and 4 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander youth (Appendix 1).

*Hispanic youth may be of any race.

Differences by age

Older youth are more likely than younger youth to be disconnected, and data for this age group are more variable from year to year. In 2017, 11 percent of youth ages 18 and 19 were disconnected, compared with 4 percent of youth ages 16 and 17 (Appendix 1).

Differences by citizenship status

In 2017, youth who are not U.S. citizens had a slightly higher rate of being neither in school nor working, relative to U.S.-born youth (9 and 7 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

Estimates (using a different data source) for states and some cities, through 2016, are available from the KIDS COUNT Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/7261-teens-ages-16-to-19-not-attending-school-and-not-working?loc=1&loct=2.

International estimates

For international estimates of youth and older youth—ages 15 to 19, 20 to 24, and 25 to 29—who are not enrolled in education and are unemployed, see the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Education at a Glance 2017 report at https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2017_eag-2017-en#page1 (pages 312–314).

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 2007–2017: Child Trends’ original analysis of data from the Current Population Survey, March Supplement, 2007–
  • Data for 1986–2006: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). The condition of education 2007 [Table 19.1] (NCES 2007-064). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007064.pdf.

Raw data source

Current Population Survey, March Supplement.


Appendix 1. Among Youth Ages 16 to 19, the Percentage Who Are Disconnected:** Selected Years, 1986–2017



This indicator measures the proportion of civilian, noninstitutionalized youth, ages 16 to 19, who were neither enrolled in school nor employed in the week prior to the survey. The survey is conducted in March of each year. Estimates from 2014 and later may not be strictly comparable to those from earlier years, due to a slight change in questions in the transition to the Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

Suggested Citation

Child Trends Databank. (2018). Disconnected Youth. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=youth-neither-enrolled-in-school-nor-working