It is often said that youth are society's future; individuals need to prepare and nurture them if they desire that future to be bright and productive. Yet, with the spotlight currently on slow economic growth and high unemployment across the U.S., there has been little focus on the plight of youth as they transition from school to adult life. But in the summer of 2011, the unemployment rate of 16-24 year olds was more than 18% or twice the overall unemployment rate; and for young African Americans and Hispanics it was 30% and 20%, respectively. At the same time, youth are finding it hard to get any work experience: the percentage of the overall youth population with a job was less than 50%, a decline of 7 percentage points since 2008, and among African Americans only about a third had jobs. Many who were not employed were neither looking for a job nor engaged in education or training. A large number of youth had already terminated their education, in many cases dropping out of high school, without making the transition to work or even into the labor market. When youth do not make smooth transitions through the educational system and into the workplace, they pay a price not only today, but also later in life. To the degree that youth lack sufficient education and work, they are likely to require public services and contribute minimally to tax revenues that support government services. More specifically, they are more likely to get involved in alternatives to work such as criminal activities, as well as rely on public assistance and government health programs. To the degree that activities such as crime also have costs to victims and society beyond the criminal justice system, there can be large social costs beyond the fiscal ones. In many other industrialized countries, this phenomenon of youth disadvantage and disconnection has already been recognized as the so-called NEET--Not in Education, Employment or Training--challenge. This report presents a detailed picture of the size of this group for the U.S., their demographic makeup and activities, as well as the social and fiscal costs they present. Particular detail is placed on race and gender as well as the relative absence or intensity of activity among opportunity youth. Rather than referring to them as NEET youth, the authors will describe them as opportunity youth. These are youth whose potential is not being fully realized--individuals' failure to harness that potential is an opportunity missed. These youth represent a social opportunity, but also an economic one. Thus, the authors' focus is on opportunities for raising future productivity through education and training, expanding economic growth through increased participation in the workplace, and relieving the burden to the taxpayer either through increased tax revenues or reduced reliance on public services.

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