Building a Culture of Health by Creating Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color, Executive Summary

Oct 4, 2016

There is a long list of social, institutional, and economic barriers that prevent too many boys and young men of color from reaching their full potential. They are more likely than their white peers to face risks in their community, in school, and at home that jeopardize their health and life chances. To better understand these barriers that America’s young men of color face and promising ways for our nation to overcome them, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise initiative—in partnership with the Moriah Group—commissioned seven issue briefs. These briefs, authored by leading researchers in academia and the social sector, examine quality education, suspension and expulsion, childhood trauma, and lack of early career opportunities.

  • While Hispanic and African-American boys account for 46 percent of all boys in preschool, they constitute 66 percent of those who are suspended. Kids who are suspended or expelled in preschool are more likely to be suspended or expelled during their K-12 years as well. They are also up to 10 times more likely to drop out of high school, experience academic failure, dislike school, and face incarceration.
  • Boys of color experience the highest rates of exclusionary discipline and school-based arrests. Black boys account for 18 percent of all out-of-school suspensions and are suspended at more than three times the rate of their white peers. Over 50 percent of school-based arrests involve black or Hispanic students.
  • Boys and young men of color are burdened by violence and are more likely to suffer toxic stress imposed by chronic poverty, racism, unconscious bias, and brutality at the hands of the police and other institutions.
  • Too many systems charged with protecting the lives and dignity of boys and young men of color—health care, mental health, public health, law enforcement, and social services—fail to promote healing.
  • Gay, bisexual, and queer (GBQ) young men of color are susceptible to a variety of mental health disparities and substance abuse. They are also more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that put them at greater risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted disease.
  • Last year, one in five American Indian/Alaskan Native male teens were employed; the numbers are even lower for black male teens. These young men, who usually come from low-income families, have few career pathways and limited opportunities to gain valuable work experience and build employment history.