At-risk youth comprise a vast population of young people often residing in urban areas of the United States. Such youth have been described as being economically and socially disenfranchised and are generally defined as, by virtue of their circumstances, statistically more likely than others to fail. They often live in chronic poverty with negative peer influences, and possibly live in foster care. When the needs of these young people go unmet, their potential negative outcomes include: teenage pregnancy, criminal or antisocial behavior, poor academic performance, shorter life span, mental health problems, and unhealthy relationships.
In 2007, nearly 40 percent of children in the United States lived in low-income families — families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (United States Bureau of the Census, 2008). When not given positive resources and opportunities, youth from low-income families are vulnerable to poor outcomes as adults. Some key points from the 2008 Social and Economic Supplement of the United States Bureau of the Census suggest:
- Youth from low-income families engage in more risk behaviors during adolescence than youth from middle-income and high-income families.
- Youth from low-income families are more likely than youth from middle- and high-income families to have sex before age 16, become a member of a gang, attack someone or get into a fight, steal something worth more than 50 dollars, and ever run away. However, youth from low-income families are not more likely than youth from middle- and high-income families to use alcohol and marijuana, sell illegal drugs, or destroy property.
- Seven percent of young women from low-income families have a child by age 18, while only 2 percent of females from middle-income families and 1 percent of females from high-income families have a birth by this age.
- Nearly a third of youth from low-income families (29 percent) fail to earn high school diplomas, approximately three times greater than the percentage of youth from middle-income families (10 percent) and roughly six times greater than the percentage of youth from high-income families (5 percent).
- Only one in ten youth from low-income families (10 percent) go on to graduate from a four-year college, compared with over a quarter (28 percent) of youth from middle-income families and half (50 percent) of youth from high-income families.
- One in five youth from low-income families (20 percent) are charged with an adult crime by the age of 24, which is higher than the number of youth from middle- and high-income families (16 and 12 percent, respectively).
- Less than half of youth from low-income families (44 percent) remain consistently-connected to school and/or the labor market between ages 18 and 24, a lower share than among youth from middle- and high-income families (67 and 75 percent, respectively)
- Roughly 1 in 5 youth from low-income families (18 percent) never connect (making extremely short, or no connections to school and/or the labor market between ages 18 and 24), while only 1 in 50 youth from high-income families (2 percent) fall into this category.
At Risk Youth Statistics
|Every day in America*||Yearly|
|4 children are killed by abuse or neglect||1,460|
|1 young person dies from HIV infection||365|
|5 children, or teens, commit suicide||1,825|
|8 children are killed by firearms||1,825|
|181 children are arrested for violent crimes||66,065|
|383 children are arrested for drug abuse||139,795|
|2, 383 children are report abused or neglected||869,795|
|1,153 babies are born to teen mothers||420,845|
|2,411 babies are born into poverty||880,015|
|2, 261 Children drop out of high school every school day||406,980|
|4,356 children are arrested||1, 550.736|
This is every day! Multiply these figures (except for the dropout numbers) by 365 if you can bear it.
- 9,200,000 children are without health insurance
- 12, 423,000 children live in poverty
All the children included in the above statistics (and more categories not listed) tend to carry their burdens and issues with them without the proper coping skills. It is safe to assume that many of the children represented in the above figures are indeed at-risk of having decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy. It is essential that we focus our efforts to address at-risk issues and provide these youths with the tools they desperately need to be sucessful.
* These statistics are from Children’s Defense Fund 2008