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There are more than 154 million young people aged 15 to 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC),[17] with the largest populations being in Brazil (51 million), Mexico (30 million), and Argentina (9.9 million). Young people are significantly affected by poverty (41%) and extreme poverty (15%).[18] Young women are more negatively affected than young men. Of the 23 million young people living in rural areas in LAC (representing 22% of youth), 64% are affected by poverty.

In urban areas, one in three young people is poor.[19] In most LAC countries, educational infrastructure and the quality of teaching need to be improved. As much as 10.6% among 15-to-19-year-olds, and 13.4% among 20-to-24-year-olds are considered functionally illiterate.[20] Only 33% of young people have access to secondary education.[21] Socioeconomic conditions and urban/rural location strongly impact access to and quality of available education. Employment and income levels among Latin American youth are worse than they were in the 1990s. Young people in LAC account for 20% of employment. Overall, 25% of young people aged 15 to 29 (of whom only 2% are young men) work in the domestic service sector, which is characterized by multiple discrimination. Indigenous youth constitute one of the most vulnerable groups among youth in general.

Latin America ranks first in the world in terms of deaths from violence among young people: 77 out of 100 deaths among young men are caused by violence. The sexual and reproductive health of young people in LAC is highly differentiated. It can be characterized by a general early beginning of sexual life, a relatively high use of contraceptives, as well as a high exposure to STD risks. Adolescent pregnancy rates have risen, in particular among the disadvantaged (estimated at 20–35% of 17-year-old girls). Adolescent pregnancy is one of the main factors restricting access to education and work. In relation to participation, young people are less interested in traditional political organizations, but they appreciate participation as a mechanism for self-expression and development of skills. Religious and sport activities attract most young people, although youth-led activities are increasingly popular. Thematically, young people are interested in human rights, peace, feminism, ecology, and indigenous cultures, although these areas are not consistently addressed by youth organizations.

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.