The Problem:

Memphis has the highest rate of young people who are out of school and chronically unemployed in the country, commonly referred to as opportunity youth.



  • Between 16 – 24 years old, out of school, and chronically unemployed

  • Approximately 19,000 in Memphis, as high as 45,000 in greater Memphis

  • Some of the lowest social mobility in the country


For these young people, who are almost exclusively African-American and low-income, their current prospects of achieving social mobility are severely limited. Without radical intervention, we are steadily losing generations of young people. Many of these young adults end up in the criminal justice system. For those who do not, they are often stuck making $7.25/hour, a poverty wage that is incredibly difficult to raise a family on.

Based on our research and interviews with key players in Memphis, we believe there are a few core reasons we are seeing so many young adults out of school and work:


Broken System

Memphis has thousands of youth prematurely exiting the school system underprepared for work or higher education, and those young people face significant barriers to economic stability related to poverty, incarceration and unemployment.



Few Pathways

Once youth exit, it is immensely difficult for most youth to reconnect to school or work, particularly to opportunities that will support them in getting out of poverty.



Dead Ends

For the youth that do find jobs, they are often cycling in and out of temporary work and minimum wage jobs.


Limited Resources

While there are programs in Memphis, there is a great need for more intensive educational and developmental opportunities for this population.


While The Collective wants to address poverty broadly, we believe the first step is ensuring all young adults have access to opportunities and that they can economically support themselves and their families.