The number of disconnected youth ages 16-24 in Kentucky jumped 49 percent from 2000 to 2011. In Louisville, 14.0 percent of youth ages 16-24 are disconnected from education and employment. Data by counties and Congressional Districts further illustrate Kentucky is falling behind the nation in preparing young people for adulthood. “The lack of education, opportunity, and connection to school or work places youth at risk of long-term instability, leaves our 21st century economy without skilled employees, and increases spending on safety net programs.”
The Kentucky Youth Advocates is bringing attention to these data, their implications and recommended actions as described in recent national publications, Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adults Connections to Opportunity and Zeroing In on Place and Race: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities.
While the issues are complex, communities can act to reconnect 16 to 24 year olds who are not working and not in school. “We need to connect isolated, opportunity-scarce communities back into the wider society and create meaningful opportunities within them. Macro policy implications range from dispersing high concentrations of poverty by changing zoning laws and building low-income housing in mixed-income neighborhoods, to redesigning public support programs and services toward two-generation approaches that address the education and employment needs of parents while helping children thrive.”