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Indicators

Young Adults Neither Enrolled in School nor Working
(Last Updated: May 2016)

In 2015, some 13 percent of young adults ages 18 to 19 and 17 percent of young adults ages 20 to 24 were neither enrolled in school nor working. In 2015, the percentage of young adults ages 18 to 19 neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for those from poor families (26 percent) than for their peers from nonpoor families (10 percent). The same pattern was observed for young adults ages 20 to 24 (31 percent for those from poor families versus 14 percent for those from nonpoor families).

Young adults who are neither enrolled in school nor working may face limited future prospects. These youth are detached from the core activities of schooling and work, both of which play an important role in one’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. Such detachment, particularly if it lasts for several years, hinders a youth’s opportunity to build a work history that contributes to future higher wages and employability.1 There are many reasons why young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 may be neither enrolled in school nor working. They may be seeking but unable to find work or they may have left the workforce or school, either temporarily or permanently, for personal or financial reasons. This indicator provides information on young adults at an age when most are transitioning into postsecondary education or the workforce. This period is critical for young people as they pursue educational and other goals.


Figure 1. Percentage of young adults ages 18 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by age group and family poverty status: 2015

Figure 1. Percentage of young adults ages 18 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by age group and family poverty status: 2015

NOTE: Poor is defined to include families below the poverty threshold, and nonpoor is defined to include families at or above the poverty threshold. For information about how the Census Bureau determines who is in poverty, see http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/about/overview/measure.html.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 501.30.


In 2015, the percentage of young adults ages 18 to 19 neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for those from poor families (26 percent) than for their peers from nonpoor families (10 percent). The same pattern was observed for young adults ages 20 to 24 (31 percent for those from poor families versus 14 percent for those from nonpoor families). Among young adults from both poor and nonpoor families, the percentage neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for young adults ages 20 to 24 than for young adults ages 18 to 19.


Figure 2. Percentage of young adults ages 18 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by age group and race/ethnicity: 2015

Figure 2. Percentage of young adults ages 18 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by age group and race/ethnicity: 2015

‡Reporting standards not met (too few cases for a reliable estimate).
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 501.30.


In 2015, the percentage of young adults neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for young adults ages 20 to 24 than for young adults ages 18 to 19, both overall (17 vs. 13 percent) and across most racial/ethnic groups. Among young adults ages 18 to 19, the percentage neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for Black (18 percent) and Hispanic young adults (16 percent) than for White (11 percent) and Asian young adults (5 percent), and the percentage for White young adults was higher than that for Asian young adults. Among young adults ages 20 to 24, the percentage neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for American Indian/Alaska Native young adults (38 percent) than for any other racial/ethnic group, and lower for Asian young adults (9 percent) than any other racial/ethnic group. The percentage neither enrolled in school nor working was higher for Black (23 percent) and Hispanic (22 percent) young adults than for White young adults (15 percent).


Figure 3. Percentage of young adults ages 20 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by educational attainment: 2015

Figure 3. Percentage of young adults ages 20 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by educational attainment: 2015

NOTE: High school completion includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED credential. Some college, no bachelor’s degree includes persons with no college degree as well as those with an associate’s degree.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 501.30.


In 2015, some 13 percent of young adults ages 18 to 19 and 17 percent of young adults ages 20 to 24 were neither enrolled in school nor working. Among young adults ages 20 to 24, the percentage was highest for those who had not completed high school (41 percent), followed by those who had completed high school only (28 percent) and those who had completed some college (9 percent).


Figure 4. Percentage of young adults ages 20 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by sex and educational attainment: 2015

Figure 4. Percentage of young adults ages 20 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working, by sex and educational attainment: 2015

NOTE: High school completion includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED credential. Some college, no bachelor’s degree includes persons with no college degree as well as those with an associate’s degree.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2015. See Digest of Education Statistics 2015, table 501.30.


In 2015, a higher percentage of females ages 20 to 24 were neither enrolled in school nor working than their male peers (19 vs. 16 percent). A comparable pattern between females and males ages 20 to 24 was also observed at various levels of educational attainment: less than high school completion (50 vs. 33 percent), high school completion only (33 vs. 25 percent), and some college (10 vs. 8 percent). However, there was no measurable difference by sex among those with a bachelor’s or higher degree in the percentage of young adults ages 20 to 24 who were neither enrolled in school nor working. Also, among young adults ages 18 to 19, no such differences by sex were observed overall or by educational attainment.


1 Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2013). America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Glossary Terms

Data Source

Current Population Survey (CPS)