Youth

Prior to COVID-19, youth were living at the margins, already experiencing social inequities without many official avenues to directly partake in decision-making processes that impact their future and wellbeing. In response, many young adults are building unique forms of power and organizing on unofficial channels like social media, carving out creative spaces for political mobilization. The young and diverse population of Los Angeles County is coming of age in a region characterized by economic, racial, and social inequality. The rising costs of higher education, the housing affordability crisis, lack of access to health and mental health services, and the lack of access to living. These conditions, coupled with the added challenges of criminalization, are further marginalizing youth of color, and in particular, Black youth.
“And so all of that is connected to poverty, education, changing the narrative of, to me, the systems that are broken. In that scorecard that should be reported out from K-5th, middle and high school of how if we are addressing these shortfalls, not from a punitive standpoint, of looking at bringing in social workers as coaches for family members. If there are schools with a high level of Black populations because again, 25 percent of the absenteeism is Black youth, then how can we align some of those dollars to reinvest from police officers to maybe coaches to support families. Having them understand the importance early on, that if a student misses more than five days of school during a school year, than they are already going to be behind from an academic standpoint. Our students need support.”
Charisse Bremond Weaver

Committee for Greater LA

Impacts of COVID-19 on Youth in Los Angeles County

Throughout this pandemic it has been evident that Black and Latino youth, along with their families have suffered disproportionately in terms of exposure to the virus, lack of access to adequate health insurance and care, and negative economic impacts. Youth are also experiencing unprecedented rates of unemployment due to COVID-19, impacting their ability to pay for these necessities that can include housing, student loans, and groceries. 30 percent of young adults surveyed had been recently laid off due to COVID-19. Moreover, 23 percent of young adults surveyed were still working but were concerned about being laid off due to the pandemic. In regards to the concurrent racial unrest tied to police violence, the poll by Latino Decisions revealed that statewide, 49 percent of Black young adults have had a negative encounter with the police, as compared to 29 percent of Latino, and 20 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander youth.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of young people, especially those most impacted. As suggested by prior research on police violence and mental health, the escalation and visibility of racial violence has likely exacerbated racial trauma in Black communities. In focus groups conducted with youth 18-24 years of age, many shared that they were forced to move back home due to loss of secure housing, loss of internships, or unemployment, taking a toll on their mental health, as many returned to toxic housing situations. These mental health challenges plaguing youth are exacerbated by the social distancing orders imposed during the pandemic that have created sentiments of disappointment and isolation. For youth identifying as LGBTQ in particular, physical distancing means that there is a loss of social interactions that protect many from suicidality. In addition, focus group participants shared that the pandemic has halted their progress toward a better life.

Los Angeles County must celebrate and support youth leadership and empowerment.

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In regards to the concurrent racial unrest tied to police violence, the poll by Latino Decisions revealed that statewide, 49 percent of Black young adults have had a negative encounter with the police, as compared to 29 percent of Latino, and 20 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander youth.

  • 49% 49%

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30 percent of young adults surveyed had been recently laid off due to COVID-19.

  • 30% 30%

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Opportunity youth comprise 14 percent of young people ages 14-26 in Los Angeles City alone, a substantial share that identify as Black or Latino.

  • 14% 14%

8 Youth Policy Recommendations

The report puts forward 8 recommendations for policy and practical action.

Shift funding from punitive juvenile systems to community-based supportive services

Fund youth centers, youth programming, and youth-serving organizations.

Develop economic opportunities for youth.

Incorporate elements of youth organizing to school curriculums and other youth serving programs.

Invest in youth data collection.

Invest in youth organizing.

Incorporate youth councils in every form of government.

Lower the voting age to 16.

Our Streets Our Stories

“I used to live at the university because my home situation is actually very toxic for me and I had to get away for my own mental health. I didn’t want to go back to that. So having to go back to the place that I had run away from in a sense has really impacted my mental health.”
Focus Group Participant