All youth in Kentucky need high quality educational experiences to become successful adults. Children must have access to educational opportunities at every stage of development, from early child care and preschool to post-secondary education or vocational training.
Education improves each young person's ability to get a good job and become self-sustaining community members. Education also creates a strong workforce, which contributes to the overall growth and productivity of Kentucky's economy.
In Kentucky, as across the nation, children in immigrant families represent a small but growing part of the population and future workforce. Currently, children in immigrant families make up 5 percent of the total child population in Kentucky. In a highly globalized world, educated bilingual and multicultural youth in immigrant families will be an enormous future asset to businesses, service providers and government agencies.1
Many immigrant families in Kentucky possess positive child well-being influences, including high rates of parent educational attainment, strong rates of home ownership and low rates of poverty.2
On the other hand, there are also some immigrant families living in low-income households and parents who do not have a high school degree. Kentucky's older immigrant youth sometimes face additional challenges to completing high school and pursuing higher education, including English language acquisition, cultural skills and social adaptation.3
English proficiency, for example, is the greatest predictor of the success of older immigrant youth. The lack of adequate English language and education programs for older immigrant youth prevents Kentucky from taking advantage of a great resource for our future workforce.
This brief presents a snapshot of older immigrant youth ages 16 to19 and will examine how well they are being prepared to successfully transition into higher education and the workforce.4
To better understand how this population is faring, data on school drop out rates and on disconnected youth who are not in school and do not have a job is presented. The data compares Kentucky's immigrant youth born outside the U.S. to all youth born in the U.S. (which includes U.S.-born youth with immigrant parents).5