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As of 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau (International Data Base) estimated that a total of 167 million people ages 15 to 29 were living on the European continent (including CIS), representing just 20% of the overall population of the continent.[6] Although the share of young people (variously defined from as low as age 13 [in some EU programs] to as high as 35 [in the Council of Europe]) is shrinking in line with developments toward lower fertility, there are significant regional differences between Western and Eastern Europe as concerns the number of young people.

Nevertheless, today’s young Europeans are a generation living in a rapidly evolving social, demographic, economic, and technological environment. The opportunities available to youth living in the developed market economies of the region are unprecedented. Many young people benefit from a high standard of living, access to quality education and health care, and the ready availability of the Internet. Nevertheless, inequalities in youth development exist in all countries of the region, often reflecting class, ethnicity, race, sex, and migrant status.[7]

In addition, there are significant differences in the opportunities available to young people from the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The disadvantaged face unemployment, underemployment, poverty, isolation from the rest of society, and the risk of being drawn into antisocial groups. Age at the onset of drinking and using illegal drugs is becoming progressively lower and young people in the region are also choosing to be sexually active, frequently unprotected, at earlier ages. The resulting sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies most strongly affect youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and youth with lower educational status. To a large extent, unhealthy lifestyles reflect youth alienation from human development opportunities. Inequalities in civic engagement can also be observed among youth in Europe. Those with higher levels of socioeconomic resources are most likely to participate.[8]

More information for this region can be accessed from the World Bank’s World Development Report 2007, “Development and the Next Generation” – regional highlights: http://go.worldbank.org/DE5YGZ1A80.