So what happens to Idaho's young folks after the education system spits them out (or, as seen in the last story, ignores their existence)? According to the research program Idaho Kids Count, the economic prospects are far from promising. In the new report "Bridge to Adulthood for Idaho Youth: On Their Own," Kids Count authors recount some sobering stats, including that in Idaho:
• The poverty rate for the 18 to 24 age group is one of the highest in the nation, at 26.7 percent, as of 2003.
• Males 18 to 24 are twice as likely as the national average to be married, and 44 percent more likely to be raising children at home; females are 53 to 58 percent more likely than average to be married and 26 more likely to have children.
• Ours is the third-most restrictive childcare subsidy program in the nation.
• The highest paying jobs for young adults are in the declining fields of mining, utilities and manufacturing, while the service sectors--the lowest paying field--is expanding. But on average, a majority of Idaho's young families couldn't make a living wage regardless of the sector in which they were employed.
So where are young people trying to get money? You don't want to know. Idaho's growth rate for incarcerating juveniles is the highest in the nation--and this despite the fact that arrests for violent crimes and serious property crimes in Idaho are far lower than the national average.
The report's authors cite several ways to combat the sobering statistics, including less reliance on incarceration for nonviolent juvenile offenders and better access to job training and health insurance, but the most immediate remedy is to increase the state minimum wage, which is currently $5.15 per hour, to something more on par with our neighbors. In Oregon, minimum wage is $7.50; in Washington, $7.63. To read the full report, visit www.idahokidscount.org.