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A decade undone: youth disconnection in the age of coronavirus

COVID-19 Pandemics Youth Demographics Social disadvantage United States of America

Global pandemics are akin to wildfires or hurricanes in that they hit with devastating effect and upend life for months if not years. But the current COVID-19 pandemic stands apart from other recent disasters in its sheer scale. In a matter of weeks, nearly all parts of the country have come to an abrupt standstill, and it is impossible to say from today’s vantage point what the full effects of this crisis will be. Getting accurate information on how the novel coronavirus is affecting young people and the youth disconnection rate in real time is a challenge. We rely on carefully collected data that takes researchers eighteen months or more to gather, verify, and format.

For this reason, this report, written in the months before the pandemic, highlights data from 2018. The numbers in this report show a decade of progress in reducing the youth disconnection rate; however, we are painfully aware that as we write, the COVID-19 pandemic is eating away at these gains. The pandemic will change the rates of youth disconnection drastically, likely wiping out a decade’s progress.

Our latest map of youth disconnection across the country can be a guide for predicting which communities may be hit the hardest. Areas with high rates of disconnection are at risk of falling even further behind amid this viral storm. They are the communities with the least resilience; they will face greatest difficulty bouncing back after the pandemic passes. This report includes the first-ever youth disconnection estimates at the public use microdata area level for the whole country, providing data for areas as small as neighbourhoods in many places. These granular estimates for nearly 2,400 locales can help guide recovery efforts to those most in need.

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