The Census Bureau data mined by the Cowen Institute demonstrate the staggering implications of youth disengaged from school or work in New Orleans.
About one in seven young people in New Orleans did not attend school or hold down a job in 2014, according to the new report from the institute at Tulane University. And those young people were much more likely than the rest of their age group to be living in poverty, suffering from disabilities and lacking health insurance — not surprising, probably, as productive lives for those on the cusp of adulthood depend on learning and employment.
Cowen drew much of its data from the U.S. Census Bureau, but this snapshot of "opportunity youth" focused on specific figures for New Orleans.
About 6,820 people between the ages of 16 and 24 fall into that category in New Orleans, or about 14.5 percent of the demographic as a whole. That compares with a rate of 19.8 percent statewide and 13.8 percent nationally.
Cowen did not provide any historical figures to give a sense of whether those rates have changed over time. But as a snapshot of 2014, the report underscored a problem that’s not captured by the improvement in standardized test scores New Orleans has seen over the past decade.
Schools in the city have closed some of the gap between Orleans Parish and the state as a whole, a significant accomplishment. But those who are off the pathways toward better lives are really lost, and typically are lost boys in the African-American community: Of those not working or attending school, 87.3 percent were black and 54.8 percent were male.
“Failing to reconnect youth to work and educational opportunities has devastating impacts,” the report’s authors argue. “It hinders the growth of youth individually, but also of the local economy and community as a whole.”
The financial implications of the problem were sketched out by the institute: Each young person who remains out of both school and the workforce costs taxpayers $13,900 annually in extra spending on crime prevention, health care, and other benefits, adding up to $94.8 million.
If anything, this understates our loss as a community.
The basics of stable family life are undermined by the rootless youth, as neighborhoods struggle against crime and an underground economy that is a drag on the city's progress. The city's schools and post-high school opportunities like Delgado's job-training programs offer valuable instruction, but those who are disengaged from this world are opportunities lost, and gains foregone in the economy and in society.
About one in seven young people in New Orleans did not attend school or hold down a job in 2…