Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

Document Type



Youth disconnection, characterized as no school and no work in emerging adulthood, is widespread in American society with debilitating outcomes for each affected young person. Substantial rates of this phenomenon have been found for all youth groups; however, more recently the disconnection rate for African American youth has increased from 17.2% to 17.9% despite remaining flat or falling for all other major racial and ethnic groups. This study utilized a mixed methods approach to examine features of social contexts that explain how African American youth become disconnected from education and employment. This study involved analyzing qualitative data collected from student participants (n=9) to inform variable selection from a large-scale national database (n=1,210 in 150 schools) to examine student-level and school-level predictors on the odds of being a disconnected young adult. Qualitative findings revealed students’ desire and need for meaningful relationships with parents, peers, and school personnel as they transition to adulthood. Moreover, students reported the value of supportive and encouraging conversations with parental figures centered on school-related and workforce topics. Quantitative findings revealed that student-level predictors, such as gender, family socioeconomic status, educational expectations, parental engagement, and peer affiliation to school were significantly associated with the odds of youth disconnection. No school-level variables were associated with the outcome of disconnection. Taken together, the combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses provided more robust results that advance the literature related to the disconnected youth population. Moreover, quantitative findings corroborated what was revealed in the qualitative results with the exception of school characteristics. Directions for future research and implications for social work practice, policy, and theory are discussed.

Committee Chair

Page, Timothy



Included in

Social Work Commons