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Study: 6 million youths idle, stuck in cycle

| Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released on Monday.

That's almost 15 percent of those ages 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.

Changing the dynamic won't be easy.

The coalition finds that 49 states had an increase in the number of families living in poverty, and 45 had household median incomes fall in the past year.

A young person's community is often closely tied to his or her success. The Opportunity Nation report tracked 16 factors — Internet access, college graduation rates, income inequality and public safety among them — and identified states that were doing well for its young people.

Topping the list of supportive states are Vermont, Minnesota and North Dakota. At the bottom? Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico.

“Their destiny is too often determined by their ZIP code,” said Charlie Mangiardi, who works with Year Up, a nonprofit that trains young adults for careers and helps them find jobs.

Just look at some of the nation's largest cities. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Riverside, Calif., all have more than 100,000 idle youths, the Opportunity Nation report found.

“Often times, they lack the social capital in life,” Mangiardi said.

In Mississippi and West Virginia, 1 in 5 young people are idle — higher than their older neighbors. Mississippi has an overall unemployment rate of 8 percent, while West Virginia posts about 7 percent. Like most states, their unemployment rates have fallen since 2011, but researchers caution that shift could result from fewer residents looking for work and from more who had simply given up their search for jobs.

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