The report, titled “School, Work, and the Transition to Adulthood of Youth in the San Joaquin Valley,” is based on findings from an ongoing study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with the Institute of Public Anthropology. The report shows as many as 17.1 percent of San Joaquin Valley youth are not enrolled in school or employed — compared with 8.2 percent of young adults in California.
“High levels of youth disconnection from school and employment in the San Joaquin Valley are largely driven by the current economic climate of the region,” said Anne Visser, assistant professor in the Department of Community and Regional Development at the University of California, Davis, the project’s lead investigator and the report’s author. “But considering the long-term impact that the Great Recession has had on the Valley’s economy and the youth labor market specifically, these statistics suggest that economic opportunity for young adults in the region will remain constrained for a while.”
Research has shown disconnected youth — individuals who are not working or going to school — are more likely to experience negative social and economic outcomes as adults, including persistent poverty, long-term unemployment, poor health and substance abuse.
According to the report, African-American/non-Hispanic black youth experience the highest rates of disconnection from school and work in the Valley at 22.3 percent, followed by Latino/a youth at 12.3 percent and American Indian/Alaskan native youth at 11.9 percent.
While young veterans represent less than 0.5 percent of the Valley’s disconnected youth population, more than one in 20 young Valley veterans are not enrolled in school or employed.
“Understanding the institutions and networks young people have available to them in their local communities, how they use these institutions and networks and how these can be leveraged to best support attachment to school and work, is imperative to promoting economic opportunity for young adults,” said Visser, a Fresno State alumna. “Unfortunately we do not know much about these networks and institutions nor the experiences of disconnected youth in economies like the San Joaquin Valley.”
Visser and colleagues are looking to close this gap in the knowledge base through a study of the role and impact of government and community institutions available to young Valley adults.
The collaboration with the Institute for Public Anthropology at Fresno State is a central component to the study. Students will be active in research, including observation and in-depth interviews with local organizations and young Valley adults. Fieldwork for the project is expected to be completed in October 2016.
“It’s great for me and my students to be part of this study and to work with our colleagues at UC Davis,” said James Mullooly, professor and chair in the Department of Anthropology and co-director of the Institute for Public Anthropology at Fresno State. “One of the institute’s goals is to help inform planning and development policy in the Central Valley through applied quantitative fieldwork. The findings of this study will help identify key policy insights and interventions that can support economic growth and opportunity for young people in our area, and we are excited to be part of it.”