Healthy Youth / Healthy Regions: Informing Action for the Nine County Capital Region (Calif.) and Its Youth

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UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Sierra Health Foundation, and The California Endowment

The study examines and documents the connections between youth well-being and regional prosperity in the nine-county Capital Region in Northern California. Researchers from many different areas, including youth leaders from the region, examined five different areas that affect youth well-being: health, employment, education, civic engagement and the built environment. The study focused on youth ages 12 to 24.

Researchers urge leaders and community members to begin thinking about youth on a regional basis, stressing that the traditional demarcations used to plan and allocate public resources do not take into consideration young people’s generally highly mobile lives. Many young people live their lives regionally as they search for jobs, education, services and recreation, and change where they live as dictated by family crises or opportunities.

Researchers explored the relationship between positive outcomes and regional dynamics using data from surveys and secondary sources, interviews with institutional leaders, young adults who left, or considered leaving high school without graduating and their adult allies and mentors, and other youth-generated media that documented local conditions.

The researchers found that the Capital Region in Northern California cannot succeed unless its youth are successful in terms of their health, education and job readiness, and also their preparation for the demands of civic and family life.

They also determined that there are significant structural challenges that are undermining the progress of youth in all the aforementioned areas. Underscoring these challenges are disparities, both in resources and opportunities, based on socioeconomic status, geography, ethnicity, race, immigration status and other related factors.

The problems facing the region’s youth must be dealt with through a unified approach that crosses sectors and systems on both the local and regional levels, the report states.

The report also found that fostering healthy youth and a healthy region requires leadership from many people and stakeholders including the youth themselves, and unrealized community assets including youth, their families and the many unrecognized strengths that youth posses (such as advocacy on behalf of family members), across all nine of the Capital Region counties.

Some of the challenges facing youth in the Northern California Capital Region include:

  • Low four-year high school graduation rates,
  •  Latino and African-American students rarely attend high schools with high graduation rates,
  • A very low percentage of students graduate having completed college entrance requirements for the University of California or California State University Systems, and
  • A small percentage of students in the region enter college within one year of graduating from high school.

In addition, African-American and Latino young adults ages 18 to 24 are overrepresented in low-wage retail occupations and underrepresented in higher paying growth sectors, such as health care, education and technology.

For the full, free 40-page report click here.