Vulnerable Youth and the Transition to Adulthood: Multiple Pathways Connecting to School and Work

Kuehn, D.,
Pergamit, M.,
Macomber, J.,
Vericker, T.
Research Brief (13 pages)
Year Published: 2009
Urban Institute
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Human Services Policy, US Department of Health and Human Services

Researchers are increasingly recognizing the transition to adulthood as an important developmental stage between adolescence and adulthood (Arnett 2004). Many important processes occur during this period in a young adult's life, including leaving home and forming a family. One crucial activity during the transition to adulthood is successful connection to the labor market. However, there is no "typical" youth connection to the labor market; there are multiple pathways, each characterized by specific causes, consequences, and policy implications.

This brief explores the multiple pathways of connection to the labor market for youth transitioning to adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), the authors find that while a majority of youth successfully connect to the labor market, many distinct subgroups follow very different, and often less successful, schooling and employment pathways. The article identifies four distinct categories of youth transitions. Youth either consistently connect, later-connect, initially-connect, or never-connect to work or school between ages 18 and 24. This brief describes the characteristics of each group and possible determinants of group membership. The findings suggest that targeted programs to help youth connect may be important. The brief concludes with a discussion of the multiple pathways of connection to the labor market during the transition to adulthood. Modified author abstract.

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