Young people need resources and support to thrive both during adolescence and into adulthood. To work toward this, we need to be able to measure, track, and determine indicators that represent all aspects of well-being.

Policymakers, funders, researchers, advocates, and practitioners use indicators of youth well-being, such as young people’s characteristics, living conditions, and the resources available to them, to track how well-being differs over time and between groups. However, our recent research suggests we must think more expansively to ensure indicators capture all domains of youth well-being. We also need to think critically about how we’re using indicators to guide and evaluate our efforts. We’ve identified five strategies that can help the field better measure young people’s well-being.

  1. Involve young people. All people using youth well-being indicators would benefit from having young people directly involved in defining concepts, determining measures, and interpreting results.
  2. Recognize how intersecting identities shape a person’s ideas about well-being.
    What people think is important to well-being may differ depending on their racial, cultural, and other identities. People designing and using youth well-being indicators should know this and ideally incorporate diverse perspectives early in any design process.
  3. Center racial equity and the role of structural racism.
    Emphasizing racial equity in youth well-being indicators involves looking beyond individual behavior and acknowledging how structural racism shapes the community conditions and systems that influence young people’s outcomes.
  4. Advocate for data disaggregation. People invested in youth well-being should advocate for filling gaps in existing data sources that have limited disaggregation by race and ethnicity and other identities, while balancing the desire for detailed information with privacy concerns.
  5. Focus on positive perspectives and assets. Indicators have historically focused on people’s and communities’ deficits.

Read the full article about improving youth well-being by Kathryn L.S. Pettit, Hannah Daly, and Amelia Coffey at Urban Institute.