September is a time for optimism. As millions of students head back to school, their parents are filled with hope that their children will learn, build skills, make friends and ultimately be better off than the generation that came before.
But today, the American Dream is at risk for far too many of our nation’s youth. Teens and young adults are facing unemployment rates twice the national average as well as widening income inequality. Nearly six million 16-to-24 year olds are currently disconnected from school and work. Does this mean that our optimistic outlook for today’s young Americans is misguided? Not at all.
In fact, dramatic gains in education have propelled overall growth in access to opportunity over the past four decades, helping to offset economic downturns such as the Great Recession. This reinforces the importance of education as one of the most powerful paths to the middle class and economic prosperity as a nation.