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Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries
for later success in adulthood. It is not known whether this shift in rates of return is largely due to globalization or whether other factors, such as declines in school quality, could also have played a role. Young people with secondary or more schooling are increasingly advantaged relative to their less educated peers in the labor market, in terms of earnings, job stability, and upward mobility. Indeed, in relative terms, their less educated peers are worse off than their parents were in terms of skills and marketability.
Despite the very rapid growth in the size of youth cohorts, it would appear that, in much of Latin America and Asia where data exist, the formal and informal labor markets have effectively absorbed increasing numbers of young people over the past 20 years, including a growing number of young women, without large increases in unemployment rates. Some countries, particularly in Asia, have succeeded in reaping a demographic dividend as a result in terms of economic growth. However, the challenge of youth employment remains substantial in some of the poorer countries of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, which are currently experiencing unprecedented growth in the size of their youth populations. Rates of growth in the size of the potential youth labor force (ages 15-24) have now peaked in most countries, even though the absolute numbers continue to grow.
Young people who grow up in poor households are likely to achieve significantly less success in their transitions to adulthood. Because of rapid population growth, poor young people are about as numerous today as they were in the past, despite declining poverty rates; the number of young people ages 10-24 in developing countries living on less than $1 a day at the turn of the twenty-first century is estimated at roughly 325 million. They are more likely to work as children, more likely to drop out of primary school (and in some cases never have a chance to go to school at all), more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior (not always voluntary), more likely to marry and bear children early and less likely to find stable and remunerative employment as adults. A substantial majority of the poor by most measures still live in Asia. However, sub-Saharan Africa is a region of special concern because the prevalence of poverty has been increasing there, while declining elsewhere, at the same time that the population of young people is growing more rapidly than in other parts of the developing world.
Some trends suggest a convergence of experiences of young people around the world; other trends suggest just the opposite. Converging trends include increases in school attendance among young people, declining rates of child labor, rising rates of labor market participation among young women, and closing gender gaps in schooling. The economies in which young people are growing up are also tending to converge in terms of their structure of production, urbanization, and increasing intranational and