The recent release of the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has illuminated many issues currently facing children and teens in society. One issue of great importance is the number of teens that are neither in school nor working currently. This grouping, which is occasionally referred to as disconnected youth, represents teens aged 16-19 who are not involved in school nor gainfully employed.

According to the information compiled in the new KIDS COUNT Data Book, this group represented 8 percent of all teens, or approximately 1.5 million teens, nationwide last year. Of all the states, Nevada had the highest rate of teens in this group with 13 percent, while Wyoming had the lowest rate with 4 percent. KIDS COUNT also breaks out the statistics among demographic groups, finding that American Indian, African-American and Latino teens had a disproportionately higher rate of detachment from both school and work than teens of white and Asian and Pacific Islander backgrounds.

Though the number of disconnected youth nationwide is slightly smaller than it was in 2010 (down from 1.6 million teens), these teens are still particularly vulnerable in society. Specifically, this group faces a number of issues including a limited ability to achieve economic success in adulthood, higher rates of teen pregnancy, and a greater likelihood of impoverishment in adulthood.

It is evident from this information that policymakers at the state and federal level need to provide greater support for programs or networks by which these disengaged students can return to school, earn a diploma, and create more options for college and a career. Creating these opportunities as teens progress into their adult years is critical.

For more information on what First Focus and the states are doing to tackle this problem:

Back on Track through College in the Rio Grande Valley

School in Texas Taking Serious Steps to Recover Disconnected Youth

First Focus’s study on disconnected youth: Reclaiming Our Nation’s Youth