Skip Navigation
Youth Indicators, 2005: Trends in the Well-Being of American Youth


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published the first edition of Youth Indicators in 1988, which contained statistics to describe the circumstances of young people's lives both in school and beyond the schoolhouse. This current report is the fifth edition in this series. The report acknowledges that learning may occur across many different settings and may be influenced by circumstances and experiences in various social contexts.

Parents, educators, and policymakers frequently refer to information on factors outside of school that influence learning. Information about youth across varied settings provides background and baselines to inform policies and practices intended to promote educational improvement. Youth Indicators is a statistical compilation of data on the distribution of youth, their family structure, economic factors, school and extracurricular activities, health factors, and other elements that constitute the world of young people between the ages of 14 to 24. These data present a composite of the youth experience, highlighting connections between their lives inside and outside of school. Much of the data in this publication are central to long-term policy debates on education issues. Where possible, trend data are provided as a historical context for interpretation. Some indicators cover only more recent years, either because they show key details of the current status, or because historical data are unavailable. Demographic information for additional age groups is provided on many indicators to relate the youth population to other groups.

This report presents a selection of indicators that provide a broad perspective on youth; it uses trend data that cut across disciplines and agency lines; and it provides information on both positive and negative aspects of the youth experience. These indicators are examined in five sections: Demographics, School-Related Characteristics, Employment-Related Characteristics, Activities Outside of School and Work, and Health. Each indicator contains a table, figure, and brief descriptive text describing the types of comparisons one might reasonably make. A short glossary defines key technical terms. Standard error tables can be viewed or downloaded in MS Excel format from each table page where applicable.

Youth Indicators contains indicators that have been adapted from various other federal reports, as well as indicators that have been constructed specifically for this report from NCES and other sources. Indicators published in previous editions of Youth Indicators constitute the basis for a significant proportion of this volume; however, many new and substantially revised indicators were designed to address emerging issues and take advantage of new databases or new features of surveys that were not available for previous editions. Many of the indicators in this report use published and unpublished data from other federal agencies and organizations, including the

  • U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau;
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics;
  • University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research; and
  • Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

Technical Note

Unless otherwise noted, all statements cited in the text about differences between two or more groups or changes over time were tested for statistical significance at the 0.05 level. Several test procedures were used, depending on the type of data interpreted and the nature of the statement tested. The most commonly used test procedures were t tests and linear trend tests. Trend tests were conducted by evaluating the significance of the slope of a simple regression of the time series points and a t test comparing the end points.