Definition of Youth

The draft youth policy framework Pathways for Youth from 2013 defines youth as those under 25 years old in three stages: early adolescence (under 14), middle adolescence (15-17), late adolescence and early adulthood (18-24).


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • ++
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • ++

  • Marriage without and with parental consent varies by state (18 and 16 in most states). Same-sex marriage/civil union legislation varies by state. (recognised in 17 states as of February 2014).  Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
The age of criminal responsibility is established by state law. 13 states have set minimum ages, ranging from 7 to 12 years old. Source:  Criminal Justice Center
Child Rights International Network

Majority Age


Except Alabama (19), Nebraska (19), Puerto Rico (19); and Mississippi (21). Source: US Legal

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 86.01%Male %
  • 87.85% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 15.40% Male (13-15) %
  • 11.10% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
In 2013, Pathways for Youth was published, a draft federal youth policy framework.

Pathways for Youth is a draft strategic plan for federal collaboration on youth issues. It was published in 2013 by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, which brings together 18 federal departments and agencies focusing on youth, and is currently in public consultation.   The draft strategy formulates a strengths-based vision for youth and defines three goals: (1) Promote coordinated strategies to improve youth outcomes; (2) Promote evidence-based and innovative strate­gies; (3) Promote youth engagement and part­nerships.   It further introduces four cross-cutting initiatives:

  • Develop a shared language on youth topics;
  • Assess and disseminate models of colla­boration;
  • Centralise and disseminate infor­ma­tion;
  • Promote data collection and evaluation.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
At the federal level, there are two offices dealing primarily with youth: the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs brings together 18 federal departments and agencies in an effort to collaborate and harmonise youth programs. The Office of Global Youth Issues is attached to the Department of State and works globally with agencies and embassies through more than 70 youth councils.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
While many cities and states have youth councils, some government-initiated, others youth-led, there is no active national youth council at federal level. A previously active organisation, the United States Youth Council, was disbanded in 1986.   According to Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP), the United States is home to the largest number of youth civic participation organizations in the world. ICP lists a wide range of examples of organizations, movements and associations.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
While the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs has listed federal departments and agencies that support youth programs, the combined spending has not been calculated and cannot be easily deduced from the available public documents. According to the World Bank, the United States spent 13.07% of its government expenditure and 5.43% of its GDP on education provision in 2009.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From Pathways for Youth: Draft Strategic Plan for Federal Collaboration (2013):  
The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (Working Group) is comprised of twelve federal departments and five federal agencies that support activities that focus on youth. This report, Pathways for Youth, is a first step to help the partners address their common goals for youth, elevate strong models of youth programs, policies, and other supports, and articulate areas for future collaborative work with and for youth. The Working Group solicited input from a wide range of stakeholders, including young people, families, schools, nonprofit organizations, State Children’s Cabinet directors, government organizations at the federal, state, and local levels, and others. Several themes emerged from the input, which are crafted into a vision for youth. This vision acknowledges the importance of pathways to opportunity for youth that include meaningful connections and safe, healthy, and stable places to live, learn, and work.
  From Child and Youth Policy Coordinating Bodies in the U.S. (2012):  
The Forum [for Youth Investment] identified 110 state coordinating bodies. [...] Several states reported having multiple child and youth coordinating bodies. [...] Most coordinating bodies address children and youth holisti­cally. More than half of coordinating bodies address at least four of the following areas of child and youth de­ve­lop­ment: academic, social/emotional, physical, voca­tional and civic. And more than half address at least four of the following age ranges: 0-5, 5-10, 11-15, 16-20 and 21+.