Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change

Jul 1, 2015
This report explores the barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color, and quantifies the enormous costs this poses to the U.S. economy. In particular, this report focuses on the significant disparities in education, exposure to the criminal justice system, and employment that persist between young men of color and other Americans. The report outlines why it's important for our nation – from business, faith, and civic leaders, to local law enforcement – to invest in the lives of our nation's young people.
  • Barriers to success faced by disadvantaged youth include the lasting impacts of family income, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood; disparities in education; and unequal exposure to the juvenile and criminal justice system, leading to lower later employment and activity rates.
  • Closing the gap in educational attainment between working-age (25-64) men of color and non-Hispanic white men of the same age would increase total U.S. GDP by 1.8 percent, increase average weekly earnings among U.S. workers by 3.6 percent, and men of color would earn as much as $170 billion more annually.
  • The cost of incarceration is substantially higher than investing in education or other programs to increase opportunity. The annual cost of incarceration for a single juvenile is over $100,000 – almost twice as high as tuition, room and board, and fees at the most expensive college in the country and nearly 100 times as expensive as a year of intensive mentoring.
  • Six important and impactful intervention points in the lives of young people, as identified by the My Brother's Keeper task force are: Entering school ready to learn, Reading at grade level by third grade, Graduating high school ready for career and college, Completing post-secondary education and education, Successfully entering the workforce, Reducing violence and providing a second chance.