In the United States, 15.5 million children are living in poverty. The more time children spend in poverty, the more likely they are to continue to experience poverty as an adult. The cycle of intergenerational and chronic poverty is perpetuated by various factors, such as unsatisfied basic needs, lack of access to quality education, and issues related to underemployment and unemployment. As a result, youth in poverty are more likely to perform poorly in school, be exposed to and affected by crime, and experience health problems. Some leading practices for poverty focus on strengthening the quality of early childhood education, providing work experience for youth, and offering additional learning opportunities outside of school.
Chronic Poverty - Poverty that persists through two or more successive generations of a family. 1
Contraception - Deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation. 2
Cyclical - Relating to a cycle, or being in a recurring pattern.
Incarceration - Confinement in a jail or prison. 3
Intergenerational Poverty - Poverty that is transmitted from one generation to the next. 4
Per Capita Income - A measure of the amount of money earned per person in an area. Equal to the average income and calculated by taking the average income earned per person in a certain year divided by the total population of that area. 5
Poverty Line - A measure of poverty used by the United States government. It is the lowest level of income deemed necessary to purchase items crucial for existence. 6
Recidivism - Relapse into criminal behavior. 7
Social Mobility - The movement of individuals within a society or the relative change in social status within a society. 8
An individual is considered to be living in poverty if his or her income is below the federal poverty threshold, which is defined as the lowest level of income deemed necessary to purchase items crucial for existence. However, the definition of poverty extends beyond material conditions to include economic, social, and political aspects. These complex factors combine to create a disadvantage for individuals and families in poverty, causing an inability to mobilize and change one’s circumstances. 9
The poverty line was developed in 1963 by calculating the cost of the minimal amount of food necessary for subsistence and multiplying that number by 3. 10 On average, in 1960, 17.5% of per capita income was spent on food. 11 While the percentage of income spent on food decreased to 9.7 in 2018 12 , other expenditures, such as housing, taxes, or medical expenditures, increased. 13 The federal poverty measurement remains unadjusted to this information, suggesting that more people live in poverty than is officially reported.
In 1959, the national poverty rate was at a high of 22.4%. 14 After the mid-1960s, which included the launch of various poverty programs and the release of the official definition of the poverty threshold, the poverty rate dropped to a low of 11.1%. Since then, the poverty rate has remained relatively stagnant, fluctuating from year to year between 11% and 15%. 15 Although the poverty rate has not shifted dramatically in decades, the economic gap between impoverished and affluent populations is widening. In the past 40 years, income inequality, or the uneven distribution of income among a population, has increased dramatically, with levels of inequality similar to those experienced during the Great Depression. 16
Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in poverty than those of majority groups. In 2018, blacks and Hispanics had the highest poverty rates at 20.8% and 17.6%, respectively. In contrast, whites had a poverty rate of only 8.1%. 17 Additionally, females experienced a slightly higher rate of poverty (12.9%) compared to males (10.6%). 18 The inequality also varied among different regions of the United States. In 2018, the South had the highest poverty rate and the Northeast had the lowest poverty rate, at 13.6% and 10.3%, respectively. 19 Statistics from other developed countries indicate that the child poverty rate in the United States is unexpectedly high; when compared to other developed countries in 2009, the United States had the highest child poverty rate at 23.1%. 20 This is more than three times as high as the child poverty rate in Norway and the Netherlands. 21
In 2018, the US federal poverty line was set at an income of $12,784 a year for an individual and $25,701 a year for a family of 4. 22 In 2016, out of the 46.7 million people in the United States living beneath the federal poverty threshold, 15.5 million were children. 23 A child is considered to be chronically poor if they remain below the poverty threshold for a period of five years or more. The likelihood of continuing to experience poverty as an adult increases simultaneously with the time spent in poverty as a child. If, as a youth, an individual experiences poverty anywhere from half to all of their childhood years, between 35% and 46% will continue to experience poverty into their early and mid-adult years. For those who do not experience poverty during their childhood years, only about 4% to 5% experience poverty during their early adulthood. 24 Additionally, for every year a child spends in poverty, the likelihood that they escape the cycle decreases by nearly 20%. 25 Consequently, chronic poverty is often the result of intergenerationall transmission of poverty among families. 26
In order to cope with various stresses and barriers in life, individuals living in poverty are forced to trade long-term goals that focus on improving their lives with short-term survival. According to Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, humans have five categories of basic needs. 27 These needs are arranged in a hierarchy; fulfilling lower needs enables individuals to satisfy their higher needs. The lowest and most basic needs are physiological—food, water, and basic health. The second category relates to safety and includes needs such as a stable home environment or freedom from fear and anxiety. 28 When a foundational group of needs is unmet, individuals focus their conscious efforts on satisfying those needs. When a level is satisfied, their motivation changes and individuals begin to focus on satisfying their next level of needs. 29 More recent research suggests that this hierarchical theory is more elastic than Maslow suggested; one level of need does not need to be completely satisfied before the next level can be fulfilled. 30 However, the premise of Maslow’s theory remains the same: individuals with unsatisfied basic needs must exert the majority of their time, effort, and resources to satisfying those needs before resources can be allocated to higher-level needs.
Because children living in poverty do not have the same resources or opportunities available to them when compared to their peers, they are often forced to focus on fulfilling their basic needs, such as determining where their next meal is coming from, rather than focusing on increasing education or saving money for the future. 31 Poor families spend the majority of their income on basic necessities; on average, low-income families spend over half of their monthly income on rent or housing. 32 In 2018, low-income households spent an average of 35.1% of their total income on food. 33 Oftentimes, income does not allow families in poverty to properly save for a home, the education of their children, retirement, or other future investments that would help to improve their quality of life. 34 This inability to focus on higher needs causes individuals living in poverty to remain in poverty. Because time spent in poverty as a child strongly correlates with and often leads to continued poverty into adulthood, children that do not have access to basic necessities or other valuable resources obtained from the community because of their family life face an increased chance of experiencing chronic poverty. 35
Lower income families are often less able to place their children in schools that provide a high-quality education. Given that education is a good predictor of future social mobility, employment, and income, the lack of quality educational opportunities contributes to the persistence of poverty within a family. 36 Because families living in poverty experience higher rates of eviction and divorce, they are often required to move in search of lower rent options. 37 They also have limited options for accessing housing. Consequently, children living in poverty experience more movement between schools. 38 Changing schools negatively affects the quality of education received by a child because it can create social and academic difficulties. 39
In the United States, public schools are primarily funded through local property taxes. Areas with lower home values do not collect as much in taxes when compared with more affluent areas. 40 Due to this significant decrease in funding, school districts in the United States with high levels of poverty spend, on average, 15.6% less per student when compared with districts that have a low level of poverty. 41 Because about 4 out of every 10 students in the United States attend schools where over 75% of the student population is considered poor, 42 the inequality in funding creates a significant discrepancy in the quality of education offered in poor areas versus wealthier areas. 43 For example, high-poverty schools are less likely to offer upper-level classes such as calculus or physics that better prepare students for college. 44 The lack of funding, resources, and educational opportunities for impoverished students perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
The unpredictable change of homes and schools combined with the low quality of education available decreases the chances of low-income youth to escape from poverty. Out of those who are continuously poor throughout their childhood, 63.5% obtain a high school diploma by the time they turn 20. 45 The likelihood of continuing to experience persistent poverty as a young adult increases by seven times for those who fail to receive their high school diploma by the age of 20. 46 In 2018, the median annual income for high school dropouts was $21,738. For high school graduates, it was $29,815, and for college graduates, it was $52,019. 47 Because children who grow up in impoverished households tend to not complete as much school as their counterparts who grew up in wealthier families, they are more likely to continue to earn low incomes as they mature into adulthood, thus feeding the cycle of poverty.
Individuals who do not work full-time throughout the year are considered to be underemployed. Underemployed individuals are six times more likely to experience poverty than those who have full-time jobs. In the United States, 32% of individuals from ages 16 to 64 are underemployed. 48 A comparative percentage for those in poverty nationwide is unavailable; however, in New York City, 63% of workers who are poor are underemployed. 49 Underemployment can occur for a variety of reasons. In 2016, about 17% of part-time workers stated that they worked part-time because of economic reasons, or reasons related to labor demand. They desired to work full-time, but were unable to find full-time employment. 50 Another 17% of workers reported that they worked part-time because they had other obligations, such as caring for their children. 51
Although not as widespread as underemployment, unemployment occurs for similar reasons and they both contribute to the cycle of poverty because they reduce the potential income of an individual or family. In the United States, the unemployment rate for 2019 was 3.5%. Of these individuals, 20.5% were unemployed for over 6 months. 52 Because many individuals cannot find full-time employment or are unable to work full-time due to family, health, or other time constraints, they struggle to provide for their families and the cycle of poverty continues.
Single parent households—whether due to death, divorce, or separation—face a higher risk of financial hardship than married households. Much of the data for teen, widowed, and single parents in poverty is correlational, rather than causational, and primarily highlights trends. However, family structure remains an important contributing factor to address because of the stark statistical differences between different family types and socioeconomic statuses. 53 In 2011, 70% of children in the United States with a single parent lived in low-income homes. Comparatively, 32% of children with married parents lived in low-income homes. 54 In 2009, 70% of single parents worked and about 40% of those individuals worked full-time. 55 The potential income for a family is reduced when there is a single parent. Because single-parent households typically do not generate as much income as two-adult households, where both parents can potentially earn an income, children born into families with a single parent have a higher risk of experiencing poverty. 56 Single mother households are even more likely to experience poverty due to institutional barriers that exist for the mothers, such as earning less than single fathers. 57 Out of households led by a single mother, 47.7% of children younger than six were in poverty—more than six times the amount for married-couple households. 58
Single parents are also faced with a greater need to provide childcare because there is no spouse or partner available to fulfill that role. Access to consistent childcare services allows single parents to pursue more stable, higher-paying jobs. However, because affordable childcare is rarely available to impoverished families, single parents often end up stuck in lower-paying jobs or without a job at all, making it more difficult to get their family out of poverty. Challenges related to the high cost of childcare services make it more likely for low-income families with young children to either work part-time or leave the workforce. 59 Families in the United States lose about $8.3 billion in wages every year because of limited access to affordable childcare. 60 In 2016, 89% of single mothers who could afford childcare services were employed, while only 77% of single mothers who could not afford childcare services were employed, demonstrating how family structure can affect employment opportunities and income. 61 Because single parents often have a lower income, providing shelter, healthcare, childcare, and other basic needs often becomes difficult, and chronic poverty persists.
Chronic poverty is cyclical and, consequently, many of the contributing factors overlap with the consequences. For instance, the lack of a quality education contributes to chronic poverty, while low academic performance is a consequence of poverty. The income of a student’s family is a reliable predictor of academic success for that student. 62 For example, a 2003 study found that students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches due to low incomes consistently earned lower scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in all subject areas than those who were ineligible for lunch programs due to higher incomes. 63
In addition to earning relatively lower scores on exams, impoverished students are more likely to be suspended from, be expelled from, or drop out of school. 64 Ninety percent of children who have never experienced poverty graduate from high school by the time they are 20 years old, while only 62% of youth in poverty are able to obtain their high school diploma by this time. 65 In the United States, 7,000 students drop out of high school every school day, and impoverished youth are five times more likely to drop out of high school than students that come from families with high incomes. 66
Impoverished youth rarely think of college as an option due to multiple social and institutional barriers, which worsens the issue of chronic poverty by decreasing their earning potential. Most universities in the United States include SAT or ACT scores in their application processes. In 2013, students from families with low incomes (less than $20,000 per year) earned an average combined score of 1326 out of 2400 on the SAT. In comparison, those from families with median incomes (between $80,000 and $100,000) earned an average combined score of 1535, while those from high-income families (more than $200,000 per year) earned an average combined score of 1714. 67 Students in poverty often earn lower scores on standardized tests when compared with their peers because of a lack of academic support and high costs associated with the exam, preparation courses, and other resources. 68 Impoverished students face a significant disadvantage because high scores are often necessary for acceptance into universities.
Low-income students are also less likely to apply for or get into college because of a lack of access to counselors 69 and decreased support and assistance in navigating both the application process and financial aid opportunities. 70 Because of these barriers, impoverished youth are less likely to attend college and are 20 times more likely than their middle and upper class peers to drop out of college. The likelihood of a youth in poverty obtaining a post-secondary degree is less than 1 in 3. 71 Of those who get accepted to a college, around 40% never attend because they are unable to pay for tuition. 72 In 2015, only 14% of low-income students obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher within eight years of graduating from high school. 73 Education offers an escape from poverty, but poverty reduces the accessibility to quality education and acts as a significant roadblock to escaping the cycle.
Much of the data relating to poverty and crime is correlational and mainly highlights trends. However, because impoverished areas have increased levels of crime and violence that have long lasting impacts on the youth involved, crime is an important consequence to address. Men who grew up in low-income families are 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than men who grew up in high-income families. 74 On average, women have much lower rates of incarceration than men; in 2017, only 7% of prisoners in the United States were female. 75 However, the relative differences between the incarceration rates for women who grew up in low-income homes compared to women who grew up in high-income homes were about the same as those for men (17 times more likely). 76 High incarceration rates of impoverished adults have a negative effect on the lives of impoverished children. In 2014, children with incarcerated parents were more than three times as likely to experience depression or behavioral problems and twice as likely to have a learning disability, ADHD, or anxiety. 77
In 2010, data from the California Census and Criminal Justice Statistics Center was used to investigate the relationship between crime and the economically disadvantaged. 78 The study found that as the rate of poverty increases, the rate of incarceration simultaneously increases. 79 While the data is not representative of the entire United States, it illustrates outcomes that can occur as a result of poverty. Areas with high levels of poverty (over 20% of the population) account for almost 75% of the violent crime arrests for youth between the ages of 14 and 17. 80
Youth who are economically disadvantaged are exposed to increased amounts of violence in their communities. When looking at impoverished youth living in inner cities, it was found that 93.6% have been exposed to a violent crime. 81 Impoverished areas have increased incidents of drug trafficking, sexual assaults, shootings, murders, and other forms of abuse and violence. 82 As a result, victimization rates are higher for low-income individuals. In 2010, the most prevalent crimes for which low-income individuals were victims were assault, at 33 victims per 1,000 residents, and acts of attempted violence, at 28 victims per 1,000 residents. 83 Individuals with higher incomes experienced lower rates, at a respective 11 victims and 9 victims per 1,000 residents. 84
Because impoverished youth face higher victimization rates and greater exposure to violence and crime, they deal with traumatic amounts of stress that can inhibit their emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and social development. Inadequate regulation of these stresses may lead youth to develop violent and aggressive behaviors themselves. 85 In California, data from homicide cases that occurred between 1991 and 2012 shows 83% of murders committed by teenagers using a gun occurred in areas with a poverty level of 20% or higher. 86 Homicide rates for teenagers in the poorest areas (poverty levels greater than 25%) are 18 times higher than homicide rates for teenagers in the wealthiest areas (poverty levels less than 10%). 87
While low-income youth are more susceptible to crime and more likely to commit crime because of psychological stress and other factors, they are also more likely to be imprisoned for crime because the criminal justice system discriminates against racial minorities and the poor. For example, a 2010 study found that the black arrest rate for possession of marijuana was 716 per 100,000 while the white arrest rate was only 192 per 100,000. 88 Although the rate of marijuana usage was similar, blacks were 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possessing marijuana. 89 Another study found that boys who grew up in families with an income below $14,000 were 20 times more likely to be incarcerated than those who grew up in families that earned over $143,000 a year. 90 Youth living in impoverished households and neighborhoods are more likely to witness, experience, participate in, and be punished for criminal activity, leading to negative outcomes throughout their lives.
Poverty affects the accessibility and quality of healthcare received. Over half of Americans have employment-based health insurance; however, jobs that are low-paying are very unlikely to offer health insurance. In 2019, 87% of full-time jobs offered access to medical care benefits while only 22% of part-time jobs provided access to medical care benefits. 91 Consequently, only 16.6% of families that make less than $25,000 a year have access to employment-based health insurance. 92 Even access to Medicaid, a government insurance option available to the poor, does little to help impoverished people because clinics frequently determine what the patient will be able to pay before providing services and restrict access for certain procedures from those who are unable to pay. 93
Because of the inaccessibility to healthcare and other aspects of impoverished lifestyles such as unhealthy living conditions (e.g. exposure to toxins or poor air quality), higher rates of chronic conditions and poor health outcomes are more common among the impoverished than those of higher socioeconomic status. 94 In 2011, areas in the United States with levels of poverty over 35% experienced obesity rates 145% higher than wealthy areas. 95 This is due to the inability to afford fresh, more nutritional foods or limited opportunities to exercise due to more dangerous living environments. 96 In 2006, 22.1% of children that came from low-income households were diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, and development disorder compared to only 13.9% of children from higher-income households. 97 The lack of access to quality healthcare and health insurance, as well as the greater occurrence of health issues among low-income populations, leads to higher mortality rates among poor adults and children. 98
Teen pregnancy rates are higher among poor adolescents than those of high socioeconomic status. In 1995, 83% of teenagers who gave birth came from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 99 A more recent statistic is unavailable—however, between 2011 and 2014, a study in California found the lowest teen birth rate (0.7%) was in an area with a median household income of about $105,000, while the highest teen birth rate (11%) was in an area with a median household income of about $23,000. 100
Pregnant teens experience higher rates of unintended pregnancies due to a lack of access to contraceptives or use of less effective methods of contraception. 101 In 2016, 68 million women in the United States were of reproductive age (between the ages of 13 and 44). Out of these women, 21 million needed publicly funded contraceptive services because they either earned 250% under the federal poverty line or were under the age of 20, and therefore less able to afford contraceptives because they are more likely to be students or be living with their parents. 102 Low-income individuals who can afford contraception often resort to less effective methods (such as condoms) because the more effective methods (such as IUDs, pills, and implants) have more expensive upfront costs. 103 In 2011, the rates of unintended pregnancies among women who earned less than 100% of the poverty line were almost 7 times higher than the rates among women who earned incomes greater than 200% of the poverty line. 104
Additionally, infants that come from young mothers have lower birth weights, more health complications and difficulties at birth, and ultimately a higher mortality rate. Sixty-one percent of infant deaths occur because of low birth weight. 105 Because of lack of access to proper healthcare, many impoverished teen mothers do not receive prenatal care, which leads to more infant deaths and birth complications. 106 Many mothers also lose their babies to illnesses like pneumonia or influenza—diseases that are easily preventable and treatable with proper healthcare services. 107
By age five, 48% of children who come from impoverished homes are ready for school, compared to 75% of their peers who come from moderate- to high-income families. 108 Before beginning kindergarten, the average cognitive scores of the highest socioeconomic group of children are 60% higher than the average scores of the lowest socioeconomic group. 109 Early childhood education is important because research suggests there is a strong correlation between a young child’s school readiness and their future success. For example, a 2012 national study found that, out of fourth graders who were considered far behind in math and reading, only 1 out of every 10 was able to meet the college readiness benchmarks by the time they reached eighth grade. 110 Increasing the accessibility of early childcare and preschool programs that offer high-quality services and support to young children and their families decreases the school-readiness gap between impoverished youth and their peers, thereby improving the chances for children to escape from chronic poverty.
The Child-Parent Center (CPC) is a program in Chicago that serves impoverished communities. Their goal is to improve school achievement and attendance among impoverished children so that they have more equal opportunities to succeed academically. 111 CPC follows an early childhood preschool model and extends this model to work with children from Pre-K through third grade. 112 Their program includes a collaborative team composed of a head teacher, parent resource teacher, and the school community representative. 113 The head teacher leads the program at CPC, where preschool and kindergarten classes are offered. They teach literacy, math, science, and socioemotional development. After kindergarten, students enroll in elementary schools that partner with CDC and the head teacher works with a school facilitator to ensure that the students learn the curriculum and have access to support services throughout their third year. 114 The parent resource teacher works with parents to provide support services, such as connecting families with community resources. They also work to increase parent involvement and engagement in the schools. 115 Because the home is the primary learning environment, the school community representative visits the homes of the children and oversees attendance initiatives. 116
The Chicago Longitudinal Study, a randomized control trial studying the effects of CPC as an early childhood intervention, began in 1985 with the goal to follow the 1,500 participants up through age 35. 117 As of 2018, 90% of the original 1,500 students were still being tracked. About a third of the 1,500 were part of the comparison group, or the group that did not attend CDC. 118 Students who participated solely in the preschool portion of CDC saw a 29% increase in high school completion by the age of 20 and a 33% reduction in juvenile arrests. 119 They saw a 47% increase in obtaining an associate’s degree and a 41% increase in obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Those who continued the program through second or third grade saw a 48% increase in obtaining an associate’s degree and a 74% increase for obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. 120 Additionally, the average incomes of those who participated in CDC were 25% higher than those who did not participate in the program. They were also 50% more likely to have a higher income than their peers. 121
In the United States, 59% of four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs. 122 Out of this number, the percentage of those who are impoverished is unknown; however, children from low-income homes are less likely to attend preschool than their peers (41% compared to 61%). 123 This is because most public programs have limited funding and are unable to serve every child that is eligible to enter the program. The number of students who are unable to attend publically-funded preschool is unavailable; however in 2007, Ohio served less than 5,000 out of about 150,000 four-year-old children living in the state. 124 Additionally, there is limited access to high-quality early education programs. 125 The quality of a program can be measured using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R). Based off of this scale only 18% of children from low-income homes were enrolled in high-quality programs in 2010. 126
Another issue is that CPC is not currently operating in other regions of the United States because of a lack of funding. States often use government spending on early childhood education to fund existing preschool programs or other child welfare systems instead. 127 CPC is a small organization that began in Chicago. However, because of its success, CPC successfully secured an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant that allowed it to expand into the Midwest in 2012. It implemented the program in 33 sites in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 128 However, because the grant came from a private investment, securing funding remains one of the main barriers to expanding this small organization to serve a wider population. 129
Because only 34% of the youth in poverty who graduate from high school consistently attend post-secondary schools or work when they are between the ages of 25 and 30, many interventions focus on helping impoverished youth obtain a quality secondary education so they can be more successful after graduation. 130 The educational and employment differences between youth born to high-income and low-income families is often not found in their abilities, but in their opportunities. High-income families are able to invest more time and resources in their children by paying for extracurricular activities, SAT preparation courses, private tutors, or other enrichment activities. These families spend almost seven times more than low-income families spend per child. 131 Additionally, students who come from high-income families spend an extra 300 hours each year interacting with adults and participating in enrichment activities outside of school than youth from low-income families. 132 Offering youth in poverty learning opportunities they might not have access to otherwise empowers them to change their life trajectory through gaining a high school diploma and continuing on to attend college or join the workforce.
Citizen Schools is an organization that partners with under-served middle schools to increase the number of opportunities youth have to engage in enriching activities and deeper learning so they are better equipped to attend college or join the workforce in the future. 133 Ninety percent of the students that the organization works with come from low-income homes. 134 Citizen Schools follows an expanded learning time model (ELT), which is built into a lengthened school day.
ELT has three components: academic support, exploration, and apprenticeships. 135 Academic support includes one-on-one tutoring and goal setting for an hour each program day. It also includes targeted support in math or English twice a week. Exploration varies depending on the school; it includes team-building exercises and other enrichment activities that help students create a pathway to achieve their goals. 136 The apprenticeship is a 10-week program directly connected to real life career options. Almost half of the apprenticeships are in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. 137 Citizen Schools recruits, trains, and supports volunteers from a variety of fields to lead the apprenticeships. Each week, the volunteer works with a group of 12 to 15 students for 90 minutes. At the end of the 10 weeks, students attend a community event and present what they have created or learned. 138 By participating in apprenticeships with website designers, lawyers, financial advisers, and other professionals, students learn how their current education applies to their desired future career. A significant indicator of whether a student will continue on to post-secondary school is if they recognize the important impact education will have on their future. 139
Of the students who enroll with Citizen Schools, 71% graduate from high school on time. Comparatively, 59% of their peers (those who come from similar impoverished communities, but do not interact with Citizen Schools) obtain their high school diploma on time. Data about the number of students from Citizen Schools who continue on to attend college is unavailable. However, the students at Citizen Schools are 25% more likely to enroll in college than students who come from impoverished homes nationally. They are also twice as likely to graduate from a four-year university. 140 While the number of those who find a career after graduation is unavailable, those who participate in Citizen Schools are 30% more likely to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate in a STEM field. 141
The impact of Citizen Schools is not entirely conclusive because the data listed above is the product of comparing results from Citizen Schools with surrounding schools. Because data was not obtained before Citizen Schools began to implement their intervention, the results may or may not reflect changes due to the introduction of Citizen Schools. However, comparing Citizen Schools with other similar schools mitigates this limitation to some extent. 142
Teenagers who come from low-income homes are less likely to be employed than their peers due to factors such as limited networking opportunities or access to jobs. 143 Focusing on creating jobs and increasing employability are important to reducing poverty. By gaining work experience, youth in poverty develop important skills that equip them with the necessary tools to break the cycle of poverty by increasing their chances of obtaining higher-paying, full-time jobs. 144 If a teen works for a year, their chances of being employed the next year increase by 86%. 145 The more work experience they gain, the more likely they are to remain employed and receive increases in their salaries. Youth employment programs prepare adolescents for better jobs by teaching youth important skills, such as teamwork, effective communication, problem solving, time management, and responsibility. 146
YouthBuild USA is an organization that seeks to help youth in poverty obtain valuable experiences and develop marketable skills by providing them with the opportunity to work. Half of the students’ time is spent pursuing academic goals (e.g. obtaining a high school diploma or preparation for post-secondary education) because higher educational achievement increases employability. 147 The other half is spent receiving on-site job training. 148 With programs operating in 252 urban and rural areas located in 46 different states, YouthBuild advocates for poor communities by teaching teens and young adults (ages 16–24) how to build affordable homes and inspiring them to take on community leadership roles. One of the main objectives of YouthBuild is to help youth secure union apprenticeships. 149 Rather than paying to attend technical school, participants receive trade training that enables them to obtain full-time, paid apprenticeships after they graduate. 150 In order to qualify and prepare for future apprenticeships, participants earn industry-recognized certifications in various types of fields, such as construction, healthcare, technology, or customer service. 151 By obtaining these certifications, participants are better prepared to enter the workforce and are more likely to secure higher paying jobs.
In the classroom, teens receive pre-employment training consisting of job counseling, interviewing, resume writing, and job searching techniques. The program director, construction managers, and other executives are involved in job prospecting and generating job leads to offer to graduates. About half of the participants pursue construction-related jobs while the others pursue higher education or careers in other fields, such as the medical industry or social services. 152 YouthBuild acts as a transition for youth as they go on to gain a post-secondary education, enter into registered apprenticeships, or find full-time employment. 153 By focusing on rebuilding the communities and the lives of youth in poverty, YouthBuild helps impoverished teens create an alternative future for themselves.
YouthBuild has helped over 7,300 graduates find jobs, gain an education, or get involved in entrepreneurship activities. They have completed 2,300 community-asset building projects, 2,000 of which include affordable housing units. YouthBuild is working with 14,000 youth in poverty. Before involvement with YouthBuild, 8,000 of these 14,000 youth had failed to obtain their high school diploma and 30% had been involved in court cases. After enrolling with YouthBuild, 74% of these youth were able to receive credentials equivalent to a high school diploma. Of the 8,000 enrollees, 54% continued on to obtain a postsecondary education or found a job. Of those 54%, 73% retained their job or remained in postsecondary school for at least 6 months. After a year of being enrolled in the program, recidivism rates for those who had previously been involved with court cases averaged 11%. 154
Information on the wages earned by individuals after they have worked with YouthBuild are unavailable, however, the U.S. Department of Labor found that individuals who enter the workforce with certifications or completed apprenticeships typically earn higher wages. The average wage of an individual who completes an apprenticeship is $50,000 a year and increases as skill levels increase. Individuals who complete their apprenticeships earn about $300,000 more throughout their career than those who do not complete apprenticeships. 155
Replication of this intervention is difficult because there are limited numbers of grantees who will help provide work opportunities for youth in poverty. A little over two-thirds of grantees successfully provided opportunities for youth to gain experience and training in construction-related activities. However, the remaining grantees were unable to secure partnerships with unions, resulting in a limited amount of worksite exposure. This inability to secure partnerships and provide specialized training to the youth was either because of state or local laws that restricted certain activities to licensed individuals or due to the fact that the grantee did not have complete control over a worksite. In addition, there were several significant periods of downtime where access to worksites was restricted. While the majority of youth were exposed to almost all phases of construction, some were unable to learn specialized skills because of these restrictions. 156
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