The Bronx Is Home to Nation’s Worst Economy for Young People
(Bloomberg) -- Before the coronavirus closed most of the U.S. economy, Ginessi Ortiz was a cashier at a shoe store. Her father made deliveries for a construction company, her brother was employed at a community center and her mother had babysitting jobs.
Now they’ve all been laid off. For Ortiz, 19, and her 24-year-old brother, it’s a setback for people already in one of the toughest places for young adults to advance: the Bronx.
New York’s 15th Congressional District, where Ortiz lives with her family, offers the worst economic prospects in the U.S. for residents ages 18 to 34 years old, according to a new index compiled by Bloomberg. By contrast, the district with the second-best prospects is just a few miles away: New York’s 12th, which includes parts of eastern Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
Data for the Bloomberg Disenfranchised Youth Index come from 2018 U.S. Census statistics, the most recent available. Criteria are the share of young adults who were unemployed, living with a parent, stuck in poverty and lacking a high school diploma that year. Each metric was calculated separately and weighted equally to create an overall score.
The data show exactly where young people were left behind in the 11-year expansion and job-market boom that now has come to a crashing halt. As Covid-19 spreads, the disenfranchised contagion also is likely to spread beyond the demographics captured by the index.
Areas represented by Democrats dominated both extremes, including 19 of the 20 worst-ranking Congressional Districts and 16 of the 20 at the top.
Mississippi’s 2nd, in the western part of the state, and California’s 21st, in the San Joaquin Valley, rounded out the bottom three. Illinois’s 5th, which includes portions of Chicago, and California’s 12th, which covers most of San Francisco and is represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined New York’s 12th as the least disenfranchised.
Unemployment for young people 16 to 24 was 12.7% in December, near a record low. But in April it spiked to 32.7%, more than twice the national rate of 14.7%, which was the highest since the 1930s.
Ryan Bree, a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi, “wasn’t really worried about anything before the virus. With the unemployment rate being so low, I thought my job security would be fine,” he says.
Bree has a job lined up at a commercial real estate company in his home state of Delaware, and as of this week it hadn’t rescinded the offer or moved the start date. Even so, he was starting to “worry a little bit because a lot of local businesses around me, they’re getting hit hard due to lack of cash flow.”
The index reflects a rise in young people’s financial reliance on their mothers and fathers for housing and other expenses, even in affluent areas. In parts of New York’s suburban Westchester County and the north and south shores of Long Island, more than half of 18-to-34-year-olds live with a parent.
A similar trend can be seen in Fairfax, Virginia, a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C., where more than a third of young adults are still at home despite low levels of poverty, high educational attainment and relatively robust youth employment.
Ortiz and her brother live with their parents, and while they all had some money saved, “it’s starting to catch up with us, paying personal bills and credit cards and the family mobile-phone bill,” she says. Her brother’s employer continues to pay him, and she was able to get unemployment benefits, but her father wasn’t.
A couple of relatives even left New York to work on farms in the south because they haven’t received any government help. “They just can’t wait and sit around for everything to open back up because we don’t know when this is going to end.”
Ortiz is getting her associate’s degree from the Borough of Manhattan Community College and wants eventually to join the police force and become a narcotics detective, partly because she’s “always lived in a bad neighborhood,” she says.
“There’s not a day when I don’t walk home and see needles” on the street from heroin use and people who are “barely even conscious. It’s like they’re half dead and half alive,” she says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to change.”
Bloomberg Terminal users can access the full data set for all congressional districts by clicking here.
Methodology: Bloomberg’s Disenfranchised Youth Index examined some of the collective characteristics of the 18-to-34-year-old age group by Congressional District.
Each district was scored, based on these four equally weighted metrics, on a scale of 0-100:
** 1. share of those in the labor force but unemployed
** 2. share living with a parent
** 3. share living in poverty
** 4. share without high school degree
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