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The States With the Most and Least At-Risk Youth

What do children need to transition successfully to adulthood? These are the states where 18-24 year-olds have the best and the worst odds of making it.

What do children need to transition successfully to adulthood? What does it take to ensure a child does well in school, or will be prepared to be successful in employment? What makes an adolescent or young adult become a positive member of society instead of turning to crime?

About one in nine teens and young adults in the U.S. are vulnerable, according to the Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, and are “cut off from the people, institutions, and experiences that would otherwise help them develop the knowledge, skills, maturity, and sense of purpose required to live rewarding lives as adults.”

Poverty is a major factor contributing to the economic and social endangerment of America’s young people. Family instability, school environment, racial discrimination, limited resources and an environment of crime are other factors. Almost one in six adolescents (16%) were living in families with incomes below the federal poverty line in 2017, according to Health and Human Services. Growing up in poverty can have negative health implications for adolescents, such as eating unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, smoking, and early initiation of sexual activity.

To determine the states where young Americans are more at risk than others in the same age group, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 16 key indicators of youth risk.

Education & Employment was 60% of the ranking. Some of the data points in this category include: share of disconnected youth, share of youth with no high school diploma, labor force participation rate, test scores, youth poverty rate, rate of teen pregnancy, homelessness, and incarceration.

Health is 40% of the ranking. These factors include: obesity, drug and alcohol use, and mental and physical health.

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Each state is scored from 1-100, the higher score indicating higher risk. A No. 1 ranking in the education/employment and health categories indicates the most at-risk, while No. 51 is the least at-risk.

Based on WalletHub’s study, these are the states with the most at-risk youth. (“Youth” refers to the population aged 18 to 25.)