(The Center Square) – Iowa’s youth are the eighth least at-risk in the nation, compared with their peers from other states, according to a new study from WalletHub.
The other Great Lakes states ranked more toward the middle of the pack in the “2023’s States with the Most At-Risk Youth” report. The report took a deep dive into issues facing America’s youth across the 50 states and Washington, D.C. It measures education level, health and physical fitness factors that could hinder social or physical development.
In the study, Iowa earned an overall score of 35.64, earning a rank of 43rd for education and employment measures and 34th for health. The state had the 44th highest youth labor force participation rate and the 48th highest percentage of homeless youth.
Wisconsin ranked 36th overall, with a score of 39.69. It ranked 40th for education and employment measures and 32nd for health. The state has the lowest youth labor force participation rate.
Minnesota was on Wisconsin’s tail, ranking 37th overall. The North Star State’s score was 37.72. It ranked 42nd for education and employment measures and 33rd for health.
Michigan’s youth are the most at-risk compared with the other Great Lakes states. It ranked 28th in the report, with a score of 43.41. It was 28th for education and employment and 31st for health.
Louisiana ranked first with a score of 69.84, ahead of Mississippi (68.76) and West Virginia (66.31). Massachusetts ranked last with a score of 25.95, ahead of New Hampshire, New Jersey (30.50), and Utah (31.41).
WalletHub used fifteen key metrics to compile the report, determining which states have youth facing adverse outcomes when they reach adulthood. The metrics are graded on a 100-point scale.
In Education and Employment, a total of 60 points comprises the overall score, featuring 10.91 points for disconnected youth, the population between ages 18 to 24 who are out of work, not attending school, and do not possess a degree above a high school diploma.
For Health, 40 points are available, including overweight and obese youth, youth using illicit drugs, heavy drinking, and physical, mental, and emotional health.
According to the study, 16% of youth aged 18-24 are not working or attending school. In contrast, many others “suffer from poor health conditions” that serve as barriers to physical and social development. Seventy-seven percent of today’s young adults cannot join the military as they have failed academic, moral, or health qualifications. The research shows that those youth are more susceptible to poverty, early pregnancy, and violence as adults.
University of Washington social work professor Angelique Day said in the report that rural service clubs and churches could partner with employers who are open to employing youths to ensure they have valid, reliable transportation to and from work.
Tulane University mental health professor Charles Figley said that policymakers can help rural youth who are disconnected from school and work by asking youth about their experiences and needs through interviews or focus groups. They can also study what’s been tried in other communities.
Research has indicated that parents’ support and acceptance of their children is linked with academic and career success, according to Clemson University professor Edmond Bowers.
“Parents should engage with their children’s teachers and schools and know where their children go and with whom they associate,” Bowers said. “The only circumstance when a parent’s involvement in their children’s academic life is problematic is when that involvement is the parents’ sole concern. Parental concern for a child’s holistic well-being is essential.”