Media Highlights

America’s New Lost Generation, in One Map

by Policy Mic   •  

Chris Miles, Editor

An entire generation of people could be America’s next economic disaster.

new study paints a dark portrait of America’s youngest adults: 6 million young people between the ages of 16-24 are neither in school nor working, and “missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life.” This is approximately 15% of all young Americans among that age group, according to The Opportunity Nation Coalition, which spearheaded the study. 

Here’s what the statistics look like visually: 

But who are these 6 million young drifters? And why you should be concerned (even if you’re not one of them)? 

This could be the start of a major workforce crisis in America. These 6 million idle youngsters are not acquiring the academic skills and professional experiences that would help them graduate from school and find the high-paying jobs that ultimately contribute to revitalizing their communities’ post-recession depressed economies.

Economically, this new lost generation poses a massive economic problem for America. The nation is poised to lose $18 billion in wages over the next decade due to high youth unemployment, according to a Bloomberg Brief from Bloomberg Senior Economist Joseph Brusuelas.

“It’s a conservative estimate,” Brusuelas told the Huffington Post. “That really underestimates the true nature of the problem. My gut tells me that it’s much larger.”

The Opportunity Nation Coalition study says that “a young person’s community is often closely tied to his or her success.” By not acquiring the skills and experiences necessary to succeed in life, these individuals not only won’t contribute to their communities’ growth but risk becoming a drag on them as they’re likely to end up depending on already unsustainable social programs.  

In a line, America’s youngest adults are becoming an economic drag.

Is this a problem where you live? Probably. As the The Opportunity Nation report found, the problem doesn’t pool specifically in urban or rural areas, and the same trends seem to appear both in the inner city and the polar opposite remote communities. This is a nationwide problem regardless of demographics. 

The nation’s largest cities (Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc.) have a surplus of “more than 100,000 idle youth.”

In rural states like Mississippi and West Virginia “1 in 5 young people are idle.”

According to the Opportunity Nation report, the fact that youth unemployment in states like Mississippi and West Virginia has actually decreased is not necessarily good news, as “that shift could come from fewer residents looking for work and from more who had simply given up their search for jobs.”

It’s been 58 straight months with millennial unemployment above the 10% mark. This is a critical problem for the American economy, as many young people are failing to build the work experience needed to excel in the modern business world. It’s hard to say what this trend has done to American innovation, competitiveness, and economic output, but it’s clear that if the trend continues we’ll see the makings of the next American economic crisis. 

Explore more data in the Opportunity Index here.

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