Learn More: Opportunity Youth


Variable Definition:
Opportunity Youth: The percent of youth ages 16 to 24 who are neither working nor in school
American Community Survey (ACS) and The Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA)
Years Available:
2006-10, 2008-12, 2009-13, 2010-14, 2011-15, 2012-16, 2013-17, 2014-18
Geographic Unit:
Census Tract (aggregated to neighborhoods and cities)

Why are these Variables Important to Measure?

Opportunity Youth
Opportunity youth (also referred to as disconnected youth) are individuals between the age of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school.  Such youth often leave school or work because of healthcare issues, pregnancy, the need to take care of younger siblings or caretakers, or because they are struggling and disconnected in school.
According to a report by Drexel University, it is particularly important for people in this age group to be working or in school because it is a critical time for developing ability, knowledge, skills, and character traits (also known as “human capital”) that are important for career path development later in life. 

Featured Data Stories

Fogg, Neeta, and Paul Harrington. "The Human Capital Investment Gap: Understanding the Diminished Prospects of Disconnected Youth in Los Angeles." Drexel University Center for Labor Markets and Policy (2016)
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Data Methods Notes: 
Identifying opportunity youth for those between age 16-19 was straightforward, as the American Community Survey (ACS) has a single table which has the number of students either unemployed or out of the labor force for both those who are in school and out of school. However, for individuals ages 20-24, school enrollment and education status were only available in separate tables in the ACS. This is problematic because those in school and those not enrolled in school have different likelihoods of participating in the labor force. Using individual-level data from IPUMS, we find that the labor force participation rate is about 80 percent for those not in school and about 60 percent for those in school. The unemployment rate did not significantly differ between the two groups. We also find that labor force participation rate significantly differs by race and ethnic groups. In order to capture the differences in the labor force participation rate by race and ethnicity, we weight the labor participation rate for each race and ethnic group to obtain the weighted average labor participation rate for those who are not in school in every census tract. We use this to calculate the number of students who are out of the labor force and also out of school. Among those who are in the labor force, we multiply the unemployment rate to obtain the number of 20-24 year-olds who are unemployed and out of school. We add the two numbers to obtain the number of opportunity youth between the ages of 20 and 24. We add the total number of opportunity youth (in both age groups) and divide by the total population ages 16-24 to get the percent of opportunity youth in each census tract.