The NYC Young Men’s Initiative Shows Improved Outcome Rates In Updated Disparity Report But More Work is Needed

In 2016, the Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI) and New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) produced the Disparity Report, inspired by, and built from, a series of previous collaborative data reports examining outcomes for young men of color. The Disparity Report originally emerged as a way to visualize city-wide trends in disparities in the context of the work of YMI.   At that time, CIDI realized the report can and should be a lens through which to describe racial disparities among young men as well as young women in four areas: Education, Economic Security, Health and Well-Being, and Youth Justice. There was no existing resource specifically integrating racial disparity data about all young New Yorkers and their interactions across NYC agencies into one tool for government agencies and community partners to use, especially one that was designed to make the data accessible.

CIDI and YMI released an update to the disparity report in October of 2021. Over the intervening five years, there was an increased awareness and a generally accepted understanding, especially among NYC social policy makers, that implicit bias in individuals and structural barriers in institutions create and sustain racial disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic helped solidify this emerging consensus in NYC. As such, the 2021 Disparity Report Update serves as a timely update to the first report and includes a summary of New York City policy initiatives aimed at addressing racial disparities.

Indicators were strategically selected in the domains of Education, Economic Security, Health and Wellbeing, and Youth Justice. CIDI used a standard method for comparing the data across groups and time and measuring the racial disparities. This method involved calculating the rate of an event for young men and women of color compared with White young men and women, respectively. Indicators consist of two parts:

  1. Outcome Rates (e.g., teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college/career readiness) by population.
  2. Comparison Index (Disparity measurement) between White individuals and individuals of other racial groups (Black, Hispanic, Asian).

The 2021 Disparity Report Update maintains a singular focus on racial equity. All indicators are disaggregated by racial/ethnic group (White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian) and by gender. This purposeful approach stresses the significant consequences of structural racism and discrimination that are often missed in aggregated measures of progress.

Though the indicators are mostly the same as the original Disparity Report, the data are new. Most indicators now have outcome data from 2013 up to 2020, though for some the most recent data available are from 2018 or 2019. The methodology is also revised and more appropriate, especially in regards to the calculation of racial disparity. The disparity measured in the 2016 report calculated the difference in outcomes for young people by race/ethnicity compared to White youth. In this update, instead of using White as a reference point for comparison, the reference point is now all other groups. As an example, when looking at the outcomes for Black youth in a given indicator, the comparison group is for non-Black youth in this report rather than White youth in the original report.

New to the updated report are Policy Change Highlights, examples of programs and policies designed to lessen racial disparities that have succeeded in making NYC a better place for young people.

Findings

The 2021 Disparity Report Update found improved outcome rates in virtually every indicator across each racial/ethnic/gender group in the latest data when compared to outcome rates in 2013. Many improvements were steady and substantial, and some were stunning. These improvements, however, did not lead to reductions in disparities between different racial/ethnic groups on most of the 28 indicators. On only three indicators (English Language Arts and math test scores and youth mortality) did disparities as measured by the comparison index markedly decline. Black youth, and to a lesser extent Hispanic youth, experience persistent and large disparities in outcomes.

This warrants more in-depth exploration into the underlying factors that are allowing some disparities to shrink while others remain.