Unemployed Youth Cost More Than Money: Turning the Trend Around

America’s unemployed youth each take $40,000 a year from the economy and cost the government $14,000 in taxes, according to the article “What Does One Jobless Youth Cost Taxpayers? $14,000 a Year.” The “lost generation” is projected to cost taxpayers $437 billion over the next five years, and possibly $1.15 trillion in their lifetime.

However hard is to look into the future and still see unemployment hurting the economy and the American dream, there are even deeper concerns than dollar amounts. In a few years, America’s youth will be America’s adults. When high school students, college students, and college grads are out of work, some aren’t learning the skills they need to have a future career, create stable finances, and build back our economy.

The employment gap between young and old is the largest it has ever been, with only 56 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 currently holding jobs. As this gap widens, many young adults will go another year without employment and new ones will fall victim. Does calling this generation “lost” require them to stay in school, follow their passions, and dream about careers? How can a young adult who is told they are part of the “lost generation” have drive, motivation, stamina, or the self-confidence to defy the label they’ve been given?

The longer youth are out of work the more likely they are to earn less in life, miss out on real-world chances to build skills, commit crimes, and need government support, according to the article. But each member of the “lost generation” can take control of their lives and set a healthy path for their futures.

Jeremy Estrada grew up in LA. He was in a gang, he was assaulted, he assaulted others and he was institutionalized and put on probation a number of times as a juvenile. After running from the police for two weeks from his last offense, he turned himself in and was sent to Rite of Passage. There, Estrada was encouraged to learn and redirect his anger. He became a straight A student who was accepted to Pepperdine University. Today, he is a graduate from Georgetown University School of Medicine. (https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/2000_5_1/pag3.html)

We might not have the jobs to employ all of America’s youth, but how can they be directed to keep learning, experiencing, and dreaming? How can the “lost generation” take back power?  How can each person, challenged by our current economy, still make a difference, remain hopeful and contribute to the best of their abilities?  How can our personal and professional lives be a model for these young people?

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