Our project involved both qualitative and quantitative data analysis.
Defining Opportunity Youth:
As you can read about in more detail here, the term Opportunity Youth is not entirely agreed upon. For the purposes of our project, we follow the definition used by CWP and define Opportunity Youth as youth between the ages of 16-24 years old who are unemployed and jobless.
Quantitative Data Sources:
Our quantitative data analysis relied on the American Community Survey 2011- 2016 (ACS) and program-level data reported by five Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative (HOYC) programs.
American Community Survey: The ACS tracks county-level data and tract-level data about labor force participation and school enrollment of youth between the ages of 16 and 24. We used these estimates to estimate the total number of Opportunity Youth in Hartford by adding the number of youth not in the labor force to the number of youth who were not in school and then subtracting the number of youth who were in school. The number of youth who were in school were subtracted because if one an individual is in school they are not considered a part of the labor force, however, these individuals do not fit the definition we used for Opportunity Youth and therefore they had to be removed to ensure we attained an accurate final answer. However, there were no existing tables that allowed us to break down the number of Opportunity Youth by race and ethnicity, so we used race and ethnicity estimates for youth at large to approximate the demographics of Opportunity Youth.
Program Data: In addition to public data sources, we also had access to data collected by programs that serve Opportunity Youth. Five (5) of the fifteen (15) organizations that work in service of the Opportunity Youth in Hartford provided data for this project. Program data tracks the services and outcomes associated with youth who have been enrolled in programs through organizations that serve Opportunity Youth.
The data that was provided by these programs through the Hartford Data Collaborative (HDC) include participant information, such as, services provided, gender, and race. Through the Hartford Opportunity Youth Collaborative we also received demographic data and the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) table. HDC has also consolidated the data provided by the programs which have helped us in the data collection process.
We were also continuously receiving updated information for analysis and this proved to be challenging but it has allowed us to incorporate more data. Once we had initially conducted an analysis of our findings and we received additional data from organizations which made the analysis process a loop. However, we still only received data from five of the fifteen organizations.
We were unable to account for the participants of every organization that serves Opportunity Youth in Hartford because of this, resulting in a limitation. This lead to our findings being limited to the five organizations we have received data from and means that our analysis may not be representative of the total demographics of youth being served by Hartford-area programs.
Another limitation to this project lied in the fact that we could not analyze the outcomes data because we only received data this data from one program. The outcomes data consisted of the ‘end’ results for the youths after having participated in their respective programs. However, to ensure that we were not putting the spotlight on any single program we did not move forward with this data. If this data had been shared by the other organizations and the data been consolidated our research would benefit from it immensely.
It is also worth mentioning that despite our analysis of program data for participating Opportunity Youth, it is not our goal to evaluate or compare any programs or organizations that provide us data. Each program runs on a different cycle and youth are constantly being enrolled meaning different start and end dates, they also face different barriers and receive different services so comparing and evaluating the programs would be inequitable.
Qualitative Data Analysis:
We also gathered data through a focus group of 8 Opportunity Youth program participants. We asked the youth about their feedback and opinions about the data by presenting our findings in the form of a data walk.
It was of great importance that we know what the subjects of our research think about the information we have included in our data as it will ultimately strengthen our analysis by taking their point of views into perspective (Hale). We wanted to have an insight into their interpretations and feelings towards our findings, these services and the endeavors of the programs. Our questions sought to understand similarities and differences in perceptions, experiences, and interpretations, as well as acknowledging the emotional impact of the data/information on the participants.
The discussion with the public consisted of mini-interviews asking them about their knowledge on Opportunity Youth. These provided meaningful standard at which we would achieve to educate the general public about the circumstances and situations of Opportunity Youth and spread awareness of the topic.