Disconnected youth*

Percentage of teens and young adults ages 16-19 who are neither working nor in school.

The 2021 County Health Rankings used data from 2015-2019 for this measure.

Reason for Including

Youth disconnection portrays a dynamic between individuals and the society they live in. Disconnected youth are at an increased risk of violent behavior, smoking, alcohol consumption and marijuana use, and may have emotional deficits and less cognitive and academic skills than their peers who are working and/or in school.[1-5] Approximately 1 in 9 teenagers and young adults in the U.S. is currently referred to as disconnected; not in education, employment, or training.[1] Several studies have shown that disconnected youth have a disproportionate share of related health problems including chronic unemployment, poverty, mental health disorders, criminal behaviors, incarceration, poor health, and early mortality.[6-9]

Key Measure Methods

Disconnected Youth is a Percentage

Disconnected Youth is the percentage of teens and young adults ages 16 to 19 who are neither working nor in school.

The Methodology for Calculating Disconnected Youth Changed

Beginning with the 2019 Rankings, this measure includes teens and young adults ages 16 to 19 who are neither working nor in school, whereas previously, those ages 16 to 24 were included.

Measure Limitations

This measure does not account for the varying levels of risk assumed among disconnected youth. For instance, someone that drops out of high school and is incarcerated is considered just as disconnected as someone that graduated and is taking time off before beginning college.


The numerator is the number of people, ages 16-19, who are neither working nor in school.


The denominator is the total county population, ages 16-19.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. Trends should not be compared between the current data and the data before the 2019 Rankings due to changes in methodology. It is also important to note that the estimate provided by County Health Rankings is a 5-year average.

Data Source

Years of Data Used


American Community Survey, 5-year estimates

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities with a fresh look at how they are changing. It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered decennial census program. The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years, and publishes both one-year and five-year estimates. The County Health Rankings use American Community Survey data to obtain measures of social and economic factors.

Digging Deeper
Age 0
Gender 1
Race 0
Education 1
Income 0
Subcounty Area 1

You can find this data stratified by gender and education in table B14005. These tables can be accessed at https://data.census.gov/. For many communities you can access these same tables at the census tract, or census block level.


[1] Mendelson, T., Mmari, K., Blum, R. W., Catalano, R. F., & Brindis, C. D. (2018). Opportunity youth: insights and opportunities for a public health approach to reengage disconnected teenagers and young adults. Public Health Reports133(1_suppl), 54S-64S

[2] Besharov DJ, Gardiner KN (1998): Preventing Youthful Disconnectedness. Children and Youth Services 20, 797-818.

[3] Tandon SD, Barshall B, Templeman AJ, Sonenstein FL: Health Access and Status of Adolescents and Young Adults Using Youth Employment and Training Programs in an Urban Environment. Journal of Adolescent Health 43(2008), 30-37.

[4] Vancea, M., & Utzet, M. (2017). How unemployment and precarious employment affect the health of young people: A scoping study on social determinants. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health., 45(1), 73-84.

[5] Morrell, S., Taylor, R., & Kerr, C. (1998). Jobless. Unemployment and young people's health. Medical Journal of Australia., 168(5), 236-240.

[6] Thurston RC, Kubzansky LD, Kawachi I, Berkman, LF (2006): Do Depression and Anxiety Mediate the Link Between Educational Attainment and CHD? Psychosomatic Medicine 68, 25-32.

[7] Hair EC, Moore KA, Ling TJ, McPhee-Baker C, Brown BV. Youth who are disconnected and those who then reconnect: assessing the influence of family, programs, peers and communities. Child Trends Research Brief. 2009.

[8] Fernandes-Alcantara AL. Disconnected Youth: A Look at 16 to 24 Year Olds Who Are Not Working or in School. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service; 2015.

[9] Sissons P, Jones K. Lost in Transition? The Changing Labour Market and Young People Not in Employment, Education, or Training. Lancashire, England: The Work Foundation; 2012.

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