Disconnected: Out of school and no job

Dec. 3, 2012
Contact: Jane Zehnder-Merrell or Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

More disconnected youth are jobless, out of school
Fewer job opportunities for today’s teens, young adults

[LANSING, Mich.] – More than 220,000 teens and young adults in Michigan are not in school and jobless, stranding them without a path to a successful career, a new KIDS COUNT report concludes.

Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows just how dramatic the impact of the economic decline has been for young people. One in five young adults in Michigan ages 20 to 24 were not working and not in school in 2011, and less than half of 16- to 24-year-olds held any kind of job.

“With fewer jobs in our state and so many experienced workers searching for jobs, the opportunities for youth are especially diminished,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “The doors to a financially successful future are closed to many young people in our state.’’

In 2000, 13 percent of Michigan teens and young adults (ages 16 to 24) were considered idle or disconnected, meaning they were jobless and not in school. By 2011, that had jumped to 17 percent — representing 222,000 disconnected youth in Michigan. Nearly two-thirds of the disconnected youth were ages 20 to 24 with a startling jump from 14 percent idle in 2000 to 21 percent a decade later.

Nationwide, there are more than 6.5 million disconnected youth. The problems worsen for youth from low-income families, poor educational backgrounds and those from racial and ethnic minorities. And 20 percent of the disconnected youth are parents themselves.

Many are missing out on the confidence and skill-building experience of part-time and starter jobs. In Michigan in 2011, just 45 percent of those 16 to 24 were employed, dropping from 67 percent in 2000.

“The world is changing and more highly skilled workers are needed. Though improving, our education and workforce systems are not keeping pace,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Studies show the consequences for disconnected youth are severe and lasting, increasing the risk for unemployment and reducing the chances for successful careers. Those shut out of the labor market for long periods have markedly reduced prospects for later connections to jobs.

“It’s not just the youth who suffer,’’ Zehnder-Merrell said. “Families and communities are hurt by this, too, and neither the state nor the federal government has developed a cohesive plan to provide disconnected youth with opportunities to complete their education or obtain job experience.’’

Among strategies recommended:

• National policymakers must develop a national youth employment strategy that mobilizes public and private institutions together to tackle this issue.
• Communities and funders need to align resources to better coordinate partnerships to help youth.
• Successful youth employment models (such as the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe in Battle Creek) must be launched more broadly.
• Employers need to step up with career pathways and jobs for young people.


The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the United States.

Kids Count in Michigan is part of a national effort to measure the well-being of children at state and local levels. The state project is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore, The Skillman Foundation of Detroit, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, local United Ways and the Battle Creek Community Foundation.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, formerly the Michigan League for Human Services, is a statewide, nonpartisan policy and advocacy group dedicated to achieving economic security for all in Michigan.