COVID-19 Youth Survey

How COVID-19 is Shaping Young People’s Perceptions of the Future

The adjustments, sacrifices, and other life changes young people ages 18-24 are making during the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting their perceptions about their future: from their career goals to how they value college.

About the Survey

From September 2020 until January 2021, we will release findings from nationwide online polls surveying Black and Hispanic youth from a broad spectrum of household incomes and white youth from households with lower incomes. This research was conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research with support from Equitable Futures, a project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

In upcoming surveys, we will explore how the movement for racial justice is affecting young people’s perceptions of their future and work, and the roles that mentors and other caring adults play in young people’s decision-making. 

Share the Findings

How is #COVID19 shaping young people’s perceptions of their future? Learn the answers in a new survey of Black and Hispanic youth and white youth from households with lower incomes equitablefutures.org/covid19 #equity

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Highlights from the Findings

Updated September 2020

Fewer youth respondents report feeling very clear about their goals and ideas for their future job or career in 2020 than did in 2019.

In 2020, slightly more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents overall report feeling very clear about their future job or career goals compared to 43 percent of respondents overall in 2019. There is at least a nine percentage point drop across all gender/race subgroups in 2020 compared to 2019.

Many youth respondents’ perception of the value of college has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Slightly more than half (52%) of youth respondents say that they value college differently now than before COVID-19. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of youth respondents overall report I used to think college is/would be worth it for me [prior to the COVID outbreak] but now I think it is/would not be worth it.

Fewer youth respondents report feeling college is or would be worth it in 2020 than did in 2019.

In 2020, 62 percent of respondents overall report feeling that college is or would be worth it, including a majority of respondents across every race/gender subgroup. However, this is a nine percentage point decline from 2019 (71% overall).

Many youth respondents are helping to care for someone other than themselves at home.

The responsibility of caring for a younger sibling falls more heavily on Black and Hispanic respondents than white respondents. Fourteen percent (14%) of respondents overall are helping to provide care for someone older than themselves in their household.

More youth respondents are working multiple jobs in 2020 than in 2019.

The percentage of respondents working more than one job jumped overall by 10 percentage points from last year (23% in 2019 compared to 33% in 2020). Among youth respondents who are employed, nearly half (48%) report that they are considered “essential workers.”

More than two-thirds (69%) of youth respondents feel the country will eventually go back to the way it was before the coronavirus outbreak, but perceptions differ on how long this will take.

Thirty-two percent (32%) of youth respondents overall feel the country will be different for a few months but eventually it will go back to normal. A somewhat smaller percentage (27%) believes the recovery will take longer: they feel the country will be different for a few years before it returns to normal.

A majority of respondents overall feel the worst is yet to come with respect to the coronavirus in the United States.

While 52% feel the worst is yet to come, nearly one-quarter (23%) believe the worst is behind us and 10 percent feel the coronavirus is not that big of a problem. Hispanic female respondents (62%) and Black female respondents (60%) are the most likely to feel the worst is yet to come.

Share The Findings With Your Network

The findings from this survey have implications for educators, employers, and programs that work with youth. Below are sample posts and graphics to share on social media.

  • How is #COVID19 shaping young people’s perceptions of their future? Learn the answers in a new survey of Black and Hispanic youth and white youth from households with lower incomes equitablefutures.org/covid19 #equity
  • New survey: #COVID19 is changing young people’s feelings about whether college is worthwhile. What does this mean for their economic prospects and our country’s workforce? equitablefutures.org/covid19
  • The stakes during #COVID19 are especially high for Black and Hispanic youth and white youth from households with lower incomes because the pandemic is exacerbating existing economic inequalities. Learn more: equitablefutures.org/covid19 #equity

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