Social exclusion of marginalised youth

Although the grounds for social exclusion of adults and youngsters are largely the same, it is worthwhile to go deeper into the specific case of the latter. Youngsters find themselves in a crucial stage of their life where one mistake can often be paid for repeatedly, well into adulthood. A number of different theories and frameworks look at the importance of the social inclusion of youngsters from different perspectives. We briefly introduce them here for your reference. If you feel like delving deeper into the matter, then have a go at the references below.

The human capital theory looks at exclusion from a macro perspective and emphasizes the role of individuals as potential workers and results in a subsequent focus on building those skills that increase chances of employment. Personal characteristics such as parental socio-economical status, gender, disablity, health, ethnicity, religion, place of residence and geographical mobility are among the factors that may have an impact on unemployment or low wages. A good education, training, good health and similar productivity enhancing investments during one's life will pay off later.

The life course framework on the other hand, takes a micro perspective and starts from the notion that, over time, an individual may move through a sequence of socially patterned, culturally defined age-graded roles and social transitions. Central to this framework are the concepts of trajectories, transitions and turning points. Life is seen as comprising a number of trajectories of considerable duration, marked by sequences of transitions or turning points. Transitions are changes in state or entries and exits to a role. Turning points are relatively abrupt life events, often accidental or not forseen. Social exclusion is seen as a trajectory and not just a simple transition.

The life course framework is interesting because it reminds us of the fact that the different roles one takes on during the course of life are often socially constructed and thus different from culture to culture and nation to nation. Youth is such a socially constructed age category, with variable expectations attached to it depending one’s perspective or background. The roles that youth is expected to transition into are also variable. According to Lloyd, young people are expected to prepare for at least five key adult roles: adult worker, citizen and community participant, spouse, parent and household manager each requiring a different preparation and set of skills.

With the transition to adulthood roles in mind, youngsters today are in need of ample experimentation with their identities and how they see themselves in the future. The classical notion of young women becoming housewives in traditional families and young men no longer just following their father’s path directly from school is no longer realistic in our Western society. Yet this experimentation with various identities and rebellion against older generations is less straightfoward for those growing up in poorer circles and socio-economically homogenous neighbourhoods.

Firstly, being able to socialize with others through shared consumption, such as sports, going out and other social activities often require money, denying or at least limiting their choice of outlets to do so. When youth rebellion and experimentation has no constructive outlet, peer group relations can lead youngsters into a negative spiral of social exclusion.

Secondly, research is increasingly taking neighbourhood effects into account in predicting the individual disadvantage of youth. Too much internal interaction in socio-economically homogenous neigbourhoods may socially isolate residents and limit information networks or as Tienda and Wilson write:

“Residential Segregation further accentuates the pernicuous consequences of poverty by limiting interaction between lower and middle classes, thereby perpetuating the cycle of social exclusion that stymies the life chances of even the most industrious youth.”

As we stated earlier, the exact nature of social exclusion differs, amongst other things, from region to region. Keeping this in mind, EU member states do however agree on a number of factors regarding the social exclusion of marginalised youngsters that occur in all countries (although not to the same degree in all countries) as listed in the “Tackling child poverty and promoting the social inclusion of children in the EU” report:

  1. The high number of poor and socially excluded children living in jobless households or households with a low work intensity;
  2. The high risk of poverty and social exclusion faced by children growing up in lone-parent families and in larger families with three or more children;
  3. The significant number of children living in households where one or both parents is in work but the income is insufficient to lift the family out of income poverty (in-work poverty);
  4. The continuing impact of gender inequalities in terms of access to employment, levels of remuneration and the sharing of caring responsibilities;
  5. The low level of income support for families with children in some countries;
  6. The high risk of poverty and social exclusion faced by many immigrant children and by children belonging to some ethnic minorities (e.g. Roma children);
  7. The particularly high risk of extreme poverty and social exclusion faced by some groups of children such as children growing up in institutions, children with a disability, children who are victims of violence, abuse and trafficking, children who are unaccompanied migrants;
  8. The high levels of early school leaving and school failure among children growing up in poor and socially excluded families;
  9. The multi-dimensional nature of child poverty and social exclusion, which shows that income poverty and lack of resources are also frequently associated with having poor health, living in inadequate housing and a dangerous environment and/or having poor access to key services such as health services, social services and childcare services;
  10. The significant intergenerational inheritance of disadvantage, in particular educational disadvantage;
  11. The lack of opportunities for many children growing up in poverty and social exclusion to participate fully in society and in particular in normal social, cultural and sporting activities.

References for further reading

  • G.S. Becker, Human capital : A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1994. (Amazon | Read online)
  • J. Knowles and J. Behrman, Assessing the economic returns to investing in youth in developing countries, Bangkok, Thailand/Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2003. (PDF)
  • G. Elder and M. Shanahan, “The Life Course and Human Development,” Handbook of Child Psychology, Wiley and Stone, 2006, pp. 665-715. (Amazon)
  • C.B. Lloyd, Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries, National Academy Press, 2005. (Amazon)
  • C. Nicole-Drancourt and L. Roulleau-Berger, L'insertion des jeunes en France, Presses Universitaires de France, 2002.
  • Robert J. Sampson, Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon-Rowley, “Assessing 'neighbourhood effects': Social Processes and New Directions in Research,” Nov. 2003. (PDF)
  • M. Tienda and W.J. Wilson, “Comparative Perspectives of Urban Youth,” Youth in Cities: A Cross National Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. (Amazon)