Building a Culture of Health by Creating Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color

Expanding opportunities and eliminating barriers to health and success for young men of color is critical to fully realizing a national “culture of health,” a series of issue briefs from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.

Commissioned in conjunction with RWJF’s $12 million commitment to Forward Promise, an initiative to improve the prospects of boys and young men of color, each of the seven briefs examines a key barrier to health and success for young men of color, including unequal access to early childhood education, disproportionate expulsion and suspension from preschool, school discipline practices, low high school graduation rates, trauma and violence, and limited career pathways. Led by the Moriah Group, the research found that the disadvantages associated with living in communities of poverty, attending underresourced schools, and facing chronic exposure to violence and trauma affect the health and life prospects of young men of color, who, as a consequence, have a shorter average life span than their white peers.

According to the briefs, families of color face a range of bureaucratic, financial, cultural, and geographical barriers to quality early childhood education. For example, Latino and African-American boys, who make up 46 percent of boys in preschool, account for 66 percent of suspensions, while African-American boys are suspended at three times the rate of white boys. African-American, Latino, and Native-American youth also drop out of school at higher rates than white youth, with consequences that range from higher unemployment to lower lifetime income, while boys and young men of color suffer a disproportionate amount of stress due to poverty, racism, and unconscious bias.

The briefs offer a number of recommendations designed to address the barriers and disparities faced by young men of color, including more generous subsidies for licensed child care, providing more help for teachers who have to deal with the behavioral problems of troubled kids, stepped-up efforts to advance school discipline reform, promoting public policies and philanthropic investments that expand opportunities for young men of color to acquire work skills and credentials, and investing in youth empowerment and social justice.

Population of focus: Boys and young men of color

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Date: 2016

Organization: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Moriah Group