five children sitting on bench front of trees
Research shows that when youth grow up in environments with economic problems and a lack of role models, they’re more at risk for poverty, early pregnancy and violence, especially in adulthood. Photo: Piron Guillaume

WYOMING — In a report released today by the personal-finance website WalletHub, Wyoming ranked 7th in the U.S. for states with the most at-risk youth.

Today, about one in nine young Americans (ages 16-24) are neither working nor in school. In turn, this exposes them to a greater risk of poverty and violence and hinders their ability to develop physically and socially.

“Such issues not only affect young people later in life, but they also prove harmful to society as a whole. For instance, more than 70 percent of young adults today are ineligible to join the U.S. military because they fail academic, moral or health qualifications,” said Financial Writer Adam McCann, in the report.

To determine where young Americans are not faring as well as the others in their age group, especially in an era of a global pandemic, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 15 key indicators of youth risk. The data set ranges from the share of disconnected youth to the labor force participation rate among youth to the youth poverty rate.

At-Risk Youth in Wyoming (1=Most at Risk; 25=Avg.):
  • 18th – % of Disconnected Youth
  • 25th – % of Youth Without a High School Diploma
  • 28th – % of Overweight & Obese Youth
  • 15th – Youth Poverty Rate
  • 8th – % of Homeless Youth
  • 6th – Share of Population Aged 12 and Older Fully Vaccinated

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has held serious ramifications for this demographic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt the job market, caused schooling to be held online in many cases and kept people more isolated than usual, though conditions are improving as the country reopens. The pandemic is also a big source of stress, and some youth may not have anyone to turn to for support.”

The following graphic indicates the share of disconnected youth over time from 2009 to 2019.
rankings 2009 2019 disconnected youth

McCann explained that idleness and social disconnection are among the biggest problems for at-risk youths today. When researchers look at the trajectory of at-risk youth they are able to identify that environments with economic problems and a lack of role models put youth more at-risk for poverty, early pregnancy and violence, especially in adulthood.

In Jackson, non-profit organizations have worked to equip families with the proper tools to provide at-risk youth with the resources necessary to heal. Programs such as the Hirshfield Center located on Cache Street, have made it their mission to alleviate this trend seen throughout the community.

To access these resources visit Teton County Youth and Family Service’s website here.

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Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter. She's a lover of alliteration, easy-to-follow recipes and board games when everyone knows the rules. Her favorite aspect about living in the Tetons is the collective admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.