WASHINGTON, D.C. — One in five West Virginians between the ages of 16 and 24 are not going to school and they’re not working.
It cost taxpayers an estimated $93 billion last year in lost revenues and increased social services.
Russell Krumnow, managing director for Opportunity Nation, said such inactivity affects everyone.
“We know if young people don’t get on the career ladder early, don’t get skills, don’t start building social networks and communities that they can benefit from, it depresses their lifetime earnings and, as a result, harms their communities and the larger economy,” said Krumnow.
The rate of young people out of school and out of work is one of the factors Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan nonprofit group made up of 250 organizations, used to determine West Virginia’s opportunity score.
The state’s score is one of the lowest in the United States at just less than 45 percent.
Other factors considered include the number of people living below the poverty line, Internet access, college graduation rates, income equality and public safety.
“Communities really matter and that’s what the data and the Opportunity Index tells us,” said Krumnow on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “Where you live makes a difference and, for way too many Americans, the zip code you’re born into often determines how high you can climb.”
Much of West Virginia is in the lower opportunity category.
The individual counties in West Virginia with the highest individual opportunity scores include Putnam, Wetzel, Monongalia, Pocahontas and Jefferson. Even in those counties, though, the scores hover around the national average of almost 51 percent.
The full study results are available at www.opportunityindex.org.