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Utah Named State With The Seventh Least At-Risk Youth, Study Shows

Utah Department of Heritage and Arts
Utah ranks 7th in the nation for least at-risk youth, but about one in nine individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither working nor attending school.

Without a stable home, positive role models and tools for success, many young Americans fall behind their peers and experience a rocky transition to adulthood, according to a new study. These issues not only affect young people later in life, but they also prove harmful to society as a whole.

But Utah was recently ranked as the state with the seventh least at-risk youth, according to Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for the finance website WalletHub. The study looked at all 50 states and Washington D.C. over a 10-year period. About one in nine individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither working nor attending school. Others suffer from poor health conditions that hinder their ability to develop physically or socially.

“When we’re looking at at-risk youth specifically we’re seeing that it does definitely have an effect on the American economy as a whole,” Gonzalez said. “Especially when it comes to those who are not in school, who are not working, who are disconnected and who are often times living at below the youth poverty rate. All of that here speaks to the larger economy.”

Gonzalez said factors that play into poverty are complicated, but there is a connection between families with low incomes and the risk that children have for drug and alcohol use, depression, labor force participation rates, obesity and other health issues.

“Those youth that do grow up with economic problems for one and two lack of role models are seeing a lot of those same issues start in early adulthood and then linger on honestly throughout the rest of their lives,” Gonzalez said. “Specifically we also look at the youth poverty rate and how that’s higher and how that snowballs into other things as well as the share of homeless youth.”

Policy change and a growing number of youth programs in some areas of the U.S. are proving to be successful, according to Gonzalez.

“Some states are improving, some are not,” Gonzalez said. “I would say those that certainly are improving tend to be in the northeast and the heartland. Those that are not tend to be in the southern states like Texas which has seen a little decline in recent years, Louisiana and Florida as well.”

Gonzalez said when areas are not finding ways to help at-risk youth, it can drain the population as a whole economically. She said the lifestyle that at-risk youth are living now will only continue into adulthood.