Evanston’s proposed 2015 budget calls for increased spending to help troubled youths and young adults get their lives on the right track.

Spending on Youth and Young Adult programs, which rose during the current fiscal year, will increase again next year — to $836,000 — a rise of 24 percent from its level in 2013.

The bulk of the extra funds are going to increase the number of outreach workers. The unit’s overall staffing will rise from 4.9 full-time-equivalent employees this year to 5.9 next year — and, including part-time employees, the number of people working in the unit will increase from eight to 11.

Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Joe McRae says that over the past three years the group has worked with 416 clients between the ages of 18 and 26.

So far 78 percent of the clients have been men and only 1 percent are Hispanic, and McRae says the staffing increase for 2015 is intended to reach out to provide services to more women and Hispanics.

Asked by aldermen to identify how big the pool is of young adults who need to be helped, McRae fell back on national data that suggests 17 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school nor working — and therefore are considered to be “disconnected youth” or, more optimistically, “opportunity youth” for whom positive interventions might turn their lives around.

But determining the relevant number for Evanston isn’t as simple as multiplying the number of people here in that age group by 17 percent.

U.S. Census Bureau data, as presented in the chart above, shows a big jump in Evanston’s population in the young adult age group. That’s because of the influx of more than 8,000 Northwestern University undergraduate students and another 6,000 graduate students on the Evanston campus — most of whom choose to live in Evanston.

That influx is only partially offset by the departure of Evanston high school graduates to colleges in other parts of the country.

And all those arriving college students are by definition in school and therefore not part of the “opportunity youth” pool.

If we look instead at the number of 10 to 14 year olds in Evanston, we see that there are just over 800 in each year’s cohort who in subsequent years will move into the target demographic. That suggests that an appropriate baseline for calculating Evanston’s disconnected youth pool is about 800 times the number of years in the age span to be included in the definition.

So, when the city defines its target young adult age group as those 18 to 26, it suggests that nine times 800, or 7,200 is the size of the pool. And applying the national average of 17 percent “opportunity youth” we’d get an estimate of 1,224 “opportunity youth” in Evanston.

Some other factors suggest that the percentage of young adults who need more opportunity here might be somewhat lower than the national average. Our high school graduation and college readiness rates are somewhat higher than average. And our jobless rate is somewhat lower than average.

But even making those adjustments, it would appear that a substantial number of prospects are not yet being reached by the program.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

    1. Definition

      In the context of this story, as was explained in the story itself, it means to be out of school and not employed.

      Obviously, people who are at school or at work can also have troubles of various sorts — but that's not the focus of the story, or of the city program.

      — Bill

  1. Evanston specific not ‘National’
    Evanston rates should not be based on National rates. Evanston has a highly educated population—much higher than National and much higher than many other cities. Evanston also has a high college population.
    As usual more programs and more spending are proposed. Will those programs that have not worked be dropped or just added to ?
    Where are the parents, schools and churches ? Certainly by the time they are in 7th grade, the parents and churches should have reached them—or why are they failing ? More and more programs,”if we just had ___” are proposed but the people who were paid to fix the situation never take responsibility/blame. Yes jobs and low income are factors but parents, churches and schools should be doing their job so the children stay in school and have the right moral upbringing—that has always been the answer.
    To those that say the unemployment is the problem, it has always been a problem but generation after generation has had the issue. To say jobs are being exported, the types of jobs change, more education is needed, etc.–a shocking truth—as the old saying goes, when you start a job, start preparing for the next one ! With the exception of teachers with tenure, almost all jobs require constant educational development or job training/preparation. A ditch digger, fast food worker, admin. assistant, and even doctors and lawyers need constant training or education—do you want your doctor/lawyer only using knowledge gained 40 years ago ? Computer and other STEM related jobs are always put forth as jobs to go for—but if they don’t keep up with what is going on, they will soon be replaced by a younger generation just out of school with the latest computer/science skills. Think maybe 30 hours per week outside the office to keep up ! More “hours” AT work won’t help much for long if you can’t work “smarter.”
    Are any of these programs teaching/preparing youth for the real world or just fairy tails about someone will always take care of them ?

  2. Opportunity is abundant

    Millions who can't speak English and have nothing but the shirts on their backs risk their lives to sneak into America for the opportunity to work and make a better living.

    If they can do it then these so called troubled youth can do it without bureaucratic tax funded organizations.

  3. Bring back the “Draft”

    A young person who needs structure and discipline in their life can very easily get it in the U.S. military.  This may be another alternative to help "opportunity youth" get their lives in order.  "Can do, will do, sir!"

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