This report presents findings from the Equity Counts Data Collection Pilot (DCP) study of six Opportunity Youth Forum (OYF) communities. Opportunity youth are defined as 16- to 24-year-olds who are out of work and school. Together, these six pilot sites developed a new set of opportunity youth measures and data collection methodologies to improve youth outcomes. The report summarizes the launch and the first-year results of the Equity Counts study as well as the next steps.

This report presents findings from the Equity Counts Data Collection Pilot. The ultimate goal of Equity Counts is to build capacity for data collection, analysis, and use at both the network and community level to drive and inform programmatic and policy decisions, increase the quality of services, and accelerate improved and more equitable outcomes for opportunity youth. Opportunity youth are amongst the hardest-to-reach youth in our communities. Unlike youth who are connected to school systems, postsecondary institutions, or employers, opportunity youth do not regularly interact with these systems. There is no system or single point of contact through which opportunity youth are engaged, and through which progress and outcomes are measured. Rather, opportunity youth, if connected at all, float among service providers, in and out of school, and between temporary jobs.

The new methodology developed by the six pilot OYF communities uses customized annual American Community Survey data to focus more closely on specific geographic areas within its network of communities and to disaggregate data by key demographics, such as race, gender, and other key variables.

As a result, the following OYF common measures have been identified for the network communities:

  • Overall community disconnection rate: The rate of young people disconnected from work and school (i.e., opportunity youth).
  • High school disconnection rate: The rate of young people without a high school diploma/GED and not working who are disconnected from high school.
  •  Postsecondary disconnection rate: The rate of young people with a high school diploma/GED, without a postsecondary credential who are disconnected from postsecondary education and not working.
  • Workforce disconnection rate: The rate of young people with a postsecondary credential, but not enrolled in postsecondary, who are disconnected from the workforce.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The author provided the following findings:

  • Community disconnection rates varied, with Philadelphia the highest at 17.5% and Boston the lowest at 4.3%.
  • Across all six DCP communities combined, the characteristics of opportunity youth were as follows: 53% male, 48.5% nonwhite, non-Hispanic, 35.4% Hispanic (any race), 16.1% white, non-Hispanic, 86.2% 19-24 years old, and 71.8% high school diploma or less.
  • In five of the six communities, young men were more likely than young women to be opportunity youth.

The author provided the following recommendations:

  • Develop OYF network-wide agreed-upon definitions and approaches to measurement and outcomes.
  • Create and support a culture of and deeper capacity for data use in opportunity youth collaboratives and amongst partners.
  • Identify and create meaningful roles and opportunities for community and youth participation and leadership in determining needs and developing solutions.
  • Understand and improve where and how programs, organizations, and systems are accelerating success and producing equitable outcomes.
  • Recognize and lift up community-driven best practices and proven successes, strengthening the OFY network and broader field.