Early identification of at-risk youth in Latin America : an application of cluster analysis
A new literature on the nature of and policies for youth in Latin America is emerging, but there is still very little known about who are the most vulnerable young people. This paper aims to characterize the heterogeneity in the youth population and identify ex ante the youth that are at-risk and should be targeted with prevention programs. Using non-parametric methodologies and specialized youth surveys from Mexico and Chile, the authors quantify and characterize the different sub-groups of youth, according to the amount of risk in their lives, and find that approximately 20 percent of 18 to 24 year old Chileans and 40 percent of the same age cohort in Mexico are suffering the consequences of a range of negative behaviors. Another 8 to 20 percent demonstrate factors in their lives that pre-dispose them to becoming at-risk youth - they are the candidates for prevention programs. The analysis finds two observable variables that can be used to identify which children have a higher probability of becoming troubled youth: poverty and residing in rural areas. The analysis also finds that risky behaviors increase with age and differ by gender, thereby highlighting the need for program and policy differentiation along these two demographic dimensions.
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