The pandemic disrupted life for all of us and had a particularly deleterious impact on youth employment and education. More than 156,000 (more than 1 in 8) 16-24 year olds were out of work and out of school in 2020, according to new data from the American Community Survey (ACS). Prior to 2020, the number of 16-24 year olds disconnected from jobs and education in L.A. County had been steadily declining, but the pandemic robbed young people of critical, early workforce and educational opportunities, disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx communities, especially 20-24 year olds. The most disturbing impact is for 20-24 year old Black men, 42 percent of whom were neither in school nor working, followed by Latinx young men and Black young women. You can view the full breakdown of the data by race/ethnicity, gender and age in our Charting Progress Dashboard.
The youth disconnection rate for 16-24 year-olds had fallen to 10.1 percent by 2019, down from 13.3 percent in 2014. Racial/ethnic differences had narrowed over the 2014-19 time period, but disparities remained pronounced for BIPOC youth, particularly for Black and Latinx 20-24 year olds (21.2 percent and 15.1 percent, respectively in 2019).
Because of the pandemic's impact on data collection, the ACS used a new weighting methodology to address sampling issues and create best estimates. As a result, 2020 data are not strictly comparable to data for previous years.1 However, the data clearly suggest that the pandemic eroded much of the progress that was made between the Great Recession and 2019.
Youth disconnection in 2020 had risen to 13.2 percent, or 156,181 Angeleno youth. For young adults (20-24 years old), disconnection was almost 10 percentage points higher than for teens (17.2 percent versus 7.6 percent, which translates to 118,670 young adults and 37,511 16-19 year olds not working or in school). That's almost 1 in 5 20-24 year olds.
Disconnection data for 20-24 year olds in 2020 show an alarming rate for Black young adults: 30.8 percent—which is more than double the rate for whites and almost four times the rate for Asians.
When disaggregated by both race and gender, we see that young women were less likely to be disconnected than young men in 2020, as was true in previous years (this despite the pandemic's bigger impact on labor force participation among women than men overall). The rate of female disconnection varies by race/ethnicity and age, but is lower than that of their male counterparts within each subgroup. The most staggering disconnection rate is for Black 20-24 year-old men: in 2020, more than 4 in 10 young Black men were out of school and work (42.3 percent)—double the rates for Latinx young men (21.1 percent) and Black young women (19 percent), the two groups next hardest hit in the pandemic.
Consistent connection to education, training and work opportunities for young people as they transition to adulthood accelerates skills development and career advancement, greatly increasing lifetime economic opportunity, especially for youth from historically marginalized and systemically disadvantaged communities. Over the next year, UNITE-LA and the L.A. Compact are partnering with New Ways to Work and the Alliance for Children's Rights to launch a strategic planning process that will engage regional government, education, workforce and social service leaders to address youth disconnection in Los Angeles County.
For more information, please contact Dr. Lisa Catanzarite, Vice President, Research and Evaluation, at [email protected].
1 Disconnected youth rates were calculated using individual-level data from the American Community Survey (ACS) downloaded from IPUMS USA. Because the COVID-19 pandemic impacted data collection and data quality, the ACS used experimental weights with the 2020 data. As a result, the ACS advises users to exercise caution when interpreting the 2020 data and comparing with data from previous years. For more information on the experimental weights, please visit https://usa.ipums.org/usa/acspumscovid19.shtml.