(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
Almost 6 million young people are "disconnected," neither working nor in school, according to a new study by The Opportunity Network coalition. The coalition shared its efforts to address this problem, and a Christian economist argued that followers of Jesus Christ should work to create opportunities for young people to find work.
"The idea of everyone having a chance and opportunity very much aligns with the teaching of Christ," Russell Krumnow, managing director of Opportunity Nation, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
He explained that 16 percent of Americans, ages 16 to 24, neither have a job nor are pursuing a degree. "Obviously that's a problem for them, but it's also a problem for the country," Krumnow said.
Many of the disconnected are high school dropouts," he explained. "Some sort of education beyond high school is really important in the current economy."
Krumnow noted that Opportunity Nation connects "businesses and employers, the educational system and faith-based institutions" in order to promote economic mobility – the ability for people to achieve success no matter their background.
"We particularly recognize that any significant social change or movement in our nation's history has been led by people of faith," Krumnow added. He listed World Vision and Faith for Change as Christian charities with which his organization partners.
While he lamented the state of young people, Krumnow also pointed to positive results from his organization's study, the "Opportunity Index."
Across the nation, the high school graduation rate is trending up, and now stands at 78 percent. Following the "Great Recession," the unemployment rate continues to shrink, and 44 states saw a decrease in the rate of violent crimes.
Some trends, however, proved less promising. Krumnow also explained that mean household income – the average amount of money a family makes – has not been rising, but has "dipped slightly." As a result, while more people are working, more people are also living "at or near poverty levels."
Jay Richards, distinguished fellow at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, told CP in a Tuesday statement, "The high youth unemployment follows from the economy's moribund growth and high unemployment generally." He argued that free market policies, like lowering or abolishing the minimum wage, would help solve the problem.
"Every impediment to employment, every regulation that makes it harder to hire and fire employees, every law that raises the minimum wage – that adds to the costs of each new employee – hits the young hardest," said Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem.
He contends that the young, least skilled and least experienced, need entry-level jobs to enter the marketplace. "These are the people at the bottom of the economic ladder, and they need to be able to grab the bottom rung."
Richards also denounced the welfare programs behind "the vast administrative state" as actually harmful to the poor.
"Too many Christians believe the piety myth, and so think that their good intentions are what really matter," he explained. "But if we really want to help people, we need to anticipate the effects of the actions and policies we support," to love God with our minds, as well as our hearts.
He continued, "Our hyper-regulatory policies, even when well meaning, don't prevent the rich from staying rich. But they do prevent many of 'the least of these' from taking the first step to economic success and security."