Despite the characterizations of Millennials in the media and popular culture, urban youth of color value education as the door to future success and believe both in themselves and a higher power to make things happen, according to a survey of more than 1,700 African American and Hispanic teens and young adults in five American metro areas.
The study was conducted over five months in mid-2013 by MEE Productions, a research, communications and advertising firm based in Philadelphia. The firm did similar surveys of urban youth in 2002 and 2008, offering a close-up view of a population that is often maligned in the media and popular culture.
“If we really want to be effective in changing the life outcomes of today’s youth of color, we
have to understand their dreams, worldview, motivations and culture,” said MEE President Ivan Juzang.
“We need to know why they do they things they do and what struggles they face day-to-day, so that we can reach them in a way that shows we have paid attention to and acknowledged their realities.”
According to Juzang, these youth remain America’s youngest trendsetters, not just in music and fashion, but also in media consumption and social behaviors that often eventually end up in the mainstream.
MEE’s survey, called the Inner City Truth 3, was conducted in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland/Richmond, with the aim of identifying and finding solutions to health, educational and related social disparities among Black and Hispanic teens between 16 and 20.
Among the survey’s other findings are the following:
• This population is intensely connected to digital technology via the Internet and smartphones and even prefers it over face-to-face time as a favored way to keep in touch with friends.
• Despite media reports to the contrary, the vast majority of African-American males have not been perpetrators of violence.
• Sexual abuse and assaults may be all-too-common experiences for African American girls and women.
• Among the sub-groups, Latina females were overwhelmingly the least satisfied with their bodies and were the most likely to report being bullied.
• Urban youth still have goals of marriage someday and believe that pregnancies should be planned.
• Programs and brands can connect with UYC by reflecting belief in self and supporting their dreams of success.
Along with these findings, ICT3 provides insights into the range of elements that impact and influence today’s youth:
• Worldview – How youth of color see themselves in the world and interact with it;
• Education – expectations and perception of quality of K-12 education, challenges to achievement, post-secondary aspirations;
• Lifestyle profile – stressors, spirituality and more;
• Intimate Relationships – views on relationships, sexuality, contraceptives and sources of information;
• Usage and preferences across the full spectrum of media channels, including social media and online choices;
• Money matters – financial literacy, saving for college and other goals, spending habits;
• Definitions of family, community, friends and intimate partners;
• Gender differences in achievement and behavior patterns among youth of color; and
• Goals, values, fears, morality and aspirations of today’s youth of color.
“Once again, MEE gives us insights into a group of young people whose views are critical, but are either misunderstood or absent from larger national conversations about the issues that affect their lives,” said Marisa Nightingale, Senior Media Advisor at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (NCPTUP), one of the survey sponsors. “The ICT3 survey findings make it clear that urban youth of color have goals and aspirations that are quite similar to those held by youth from other backgrounds. This clear look into the lives of urban youth of color will inform and inspire those who are working to improve the lives of all young people for years to come.”