National Portrait of 16- to 26-Year-Olds Who are not on Track to Attain a Post-Secondary Education Credential

Investigator: Leticia Oseguera (with Cynthia Feliciano, UCI Department of Sociology)

Graduate Student Researcher: Irene Vega

Funding: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

This two-phase project involves coordinated, multi-method studies of 16- to 26-year-olds who are not on track to attain a post-secondary education (PSE) credential with value in the labor market. In Phase 1, we will perform a broad, national accounting of the target population and subpopulations based on analyses of multiple national data sets in order to address three overarching research questions:

  1. What are the life experiences of the target population overall and of various subpopulations (e.g., struggling PSE students, low-wage workers not enrolled in PSE, "disconnected")?

  1. What factors shape PSE enrollment and completion, and labor force participation and mobility?

  1. What is the role of educational, economic, and social institutions in determining these outcomes?

The findings from these analyses will inform the focus of studies to be conducted in Phase 2. Interview and survey protocols will be designed for data collection in three California cities, focusing specifically on the interactions of the target population and PSE opportunities and obstacles. These community portraits will inform strategies that maximize opportunities and minimize obstacles in the PSE+ landscape of social systems and institutions. They also will give policymakers and the public compelling evidence about the costs and benefits of support to various social institutions for young people in the target population.