Disadvantaged Young Men and Families

“The statistics are sobering: more than 23 million children, or 1 out of every 3, live apart from their biological fathers; males are now less likely than females to graduate from high school and to enter and graduate from college; there is long-term decline in the percentage of adult males who have jobs; and only about 60 percent of young minority males have a job. The nation is in a crisis regarding the development and economic productivity of young males, especially disadvantaged males.” (Brookings Institution)

On December 5, the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution hosted an event focused on young disadvantaged males in the United States and the intervention programs that might best serve them.

Using research from a recent issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, edited by Timothy Smeeding, Irwin Garfinkel, and Ron Mincy, speakers showed that few teenage and young adult males benefited from the economic recovery of 2003-2007 and men under thirty were more adversely affected than any other demographic group by the Great Recession.

Broadly speaking, men have historically had the upper hand in the U.S. economy. But with the recent decline in jobs, including manufacturing and construction jobs, young men now find it more difficult to earn enough to support a family than they did during the mid-1970s. (The Future of Children: Transition to Adulthood) And by age 30, between sixty eight and seventy five percent of young men in the United States, with only a high school degree or less, are fathers.

Many of these fathers are also incarcerated, which puts additional strain on families. Incarceration rates for men have skyrocketed since the 1980s. As Irv Garfinkel noted at the Brookings event, the U.S. is incarcerating far too many young men, particularly those of color. Although white, non-Hispanic males account for about seventy eight percent of all men over 25 in the U.S., less than one-third of prisoners are white men. Imprisonment diminishes the earnings of adult men, compromises their health, reduces familial resources, and contributes to family breakup. It also adds to the deficits of poor children, thus ensuring that the effects of imprisonment on inequality are transferred intergenerationally. Perversely, incarceration has its most corrosive effects on families whose fathers were involved in neither domestic violence nor violent crime before being imprisoned. (The Future of Children: Fragile Families)

The evidence shows that, with proper funding and implementation, a surprising number of programs could help reduce the problems that afflict disadvantaged young males. Some of these include:

1.) Career Academies: career development and academic achievement programs

2.) The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program

3.) Expanded Work Programs, including the Child Support Work Program

For more details on these programs, which were featured at the Brookings event, click here.

The Future of Children issues on Transition to Adulthood and Fragile Families also provide additional research on disadvantaged young men and their families.

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