Background information

Some articles include "background information" boxes that provide further details on concepts, economic, scholarly, or technical terms, or on the historical background to an argument. All background information terms and concepts are brought together here in an alphabetized list—with direct links back to the corresponding article.


  • Youth bulges

    A common measure of the youth bulge or youth ratio is the ratio of the population ages 15–24 to the population ages 15–64 (the youth ratio). Alternative measures are the ratio of the youth population to the entire population, the annual growth rate of the youth population, and the absolute size of the youth population relative to some baseline (say the youth population in 1960).

    The key issues are not sensitive to the measure used. By any measure, the youth bulge in developing countries was much greater 40 years ago than it is today, and it continues to decline. The annual growth rate of the youth population in Asian countries, for example, was more than 4% a year in the 1970s, higher than the growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa today. The growth rate has declined to close to zero in all regions except sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Youth mentoring program: Across Ages

    Across Ages is a mentoring program for youths aged 9–13 years with the goal of preventing, reducing or delaying the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. The unique feature of this program is that the youths are paired with older adult mentors aged 55+. Youths on this program include those who are economically disadvantaged, school failures, those with few positive adult role models or with peer groups who engage in risky behaviors. Mentors help to increase knowledge of substance abuse, improve school bonding, strengthen relationships and enhance problem-solving and decision-making skills.

    An experimental study of the Across Ages mentoring program found that the encouraging outcomes (such as less substance abuse and fewer problem behaviors, as well as stronger attachments to school and family) were not sustained beyond the end of the school year.

    Aseltine, R. H., M. Dupre, and P. Lamlein. "Mentoring as a drug prevention strategy: An evaluation of across ages." Adolescent and Family Health 1 (2000): 11–20.

  • Youth mentoring program: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

    Big Brothers Big Sisters is the largest volunteer-supported mentoring network in America. It pairs children to volunteer mentors by partnering up with parents, guardians, schools and corporations, and then it supports these pairings throughout their course. Children facing adversity (often single-parent or low-income families or those with one parent in the military or in prison) join the program and, with the support of their one-to-one mentor, aim to achieve outcomes that can be measured, including greater confidence, better relationships, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations and success in their education.

    Two independent random-assignment evaluations of this renowned program found that it reduced substance abuse and violence, and improved parent and peer relationships, and school attendance and performance (Grossman and Tierney, 1998; Herrera et al., 2007).

    Grossman, J. B., and J. P. Tierney. “Does mentoring work? An impact study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.” Evaluation Review 22:3 (1998): 402–425.

    Herrera, C., J. B. Grossman, T. J. Kauh, A. F. Feldman, and J. McMaken (with L. Z. Jucovy). Making a Difference in Schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters School-based Mentoring Impact Study. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, 2007.

  • Youth mentoring program: Quantum Opportunity Program

    The Quantum Opportunity Program is a comprehensive, intensive program for youths of high-school age in the US. It offers mentoring, tutoring, case management and other education assistance and support in order to encourage those participating to complete high school, join a college and avoid risky behaviors. Youths can join in the ninth grade and receive support for four to five years, even if they move from the district or leave school. They are offered financial incentives for taking part; participants are paid for every hour devoted to core program activities with some money paid immediately and the rest put into a savings account for when they complete high school.

    A thorough evaluation of the program finds that the short-term educational successes of the Quantum Opportunity Program were modest and that the program’s effects on risky behavior were detrimental in the long term, with male participants more likely to commit crimes and be arrested in their mid-20s than students who had not been in the program (Rodriguez-Planas, 2012).

    Rodríguez-Planas, N. “Longer-term impacts of mentoring, educational services, and learning incentives: Evidence from a randomized trial in the US.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 4:4 (2012): 129–139.

  • Youth unemployment

    The standard International Labour Organization (ILO) definition of unemployment is the proportion of people in the labor force who say they were not working and were looking for work in a given period (usually the past seven days). The labor force consists of those who are employed or unemployed and looking for work, and thus leaves out those who were not working or looking for work (including students and “discouraged workers”).

    Many predominantly agricultural African countries have low rates of youth unemployment. Only 5.4% of young people in Uganda, for example, were unemployed by this definition in 2009. This may disguise high levels of underemployment. There are limited data on informal employment and underemployment, and no consistent guidelines about how to measure them. For all their imperfections, the ILO data on youth unemployment are one of the few sources of reasonably comparable data on youth labor market activity for a large number of countries.