White House Council Report Shows Cost of “Opportunity Youth”

As the nation focuses on economic recovery, relatively little attention is paid to the important transition that takes place for students graduating high school and entering postsecondary education or the workforce. A new report from the White House Council for Community Solutions and the Corporation for National and Community Service, The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, describes “opportunity youth” as individuals from age 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor part of the workforce. The report calculates the cost of ignoring the almost 7 million opportunity youth across the nation and identifies key areas of investment for reducing this problem.

Opportunity youth are less likely to be employed, often have worse health, and are more likely to take part in criminal activity than their peers. Taxpayers also pay heavily for these youth, who impose an immediate $13,900 per year and a lifetime burden of $170,740 on taxpayers.

Over the summer of 2011, the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds was 18 percent, more than double the national rate. The likelihood of postsecondary degree or credential attainment is equally dismal as only 1 percent of opportunity youth complete at least an Associate degree by age 28, while the national rate is 36 percent.

To address these concerns, the White House report suggests making “cost-effective, targeted investments” to aid these individuals in the transition to postsecondary education or careers. Specifically, the writers suggest more education, better training, and social supports for opportunity youth.

Career Technical Education (CTE) programs across the nation offer the education and training that individuals, including opportunity youth, need to be competitive in today’s labor market. CTE provides high-level knowledge and skills that lead to industry-recognized credentials in high-demand fields.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst

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