Older Adolescent and Young Adult English Learners: A Study of Demographics, Policies, and Programs

This document summarizes the findings and implications of an extensive analysis of survey data on English learners (ELs) that was undertaken in 2015, about the demographics characteristics, education attainment, and employment and family status of ELs ages 14-21.

Erin Velez
Suyapa Silvia
Michelle Tolbert
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
RTI International
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Number of Pages
Product Type

This document summarizes the findings and implications of a study of the demographic characteristics, educational attainment, and employment status of older adolescent and young adult English learners, ages 14 – 21.  Using relevant American Community Survey (ACS) data, the study “Older Adolescent and Young Adult English Learners: A Study of Demographics, Policies, and Programs,” found that young adult ELs  are demographically diverse, have considerably lower educational attainment than non-ELs,  are less likely to be enrolled in any secondary or postsecondary education, are also significantly more likely to drop out of high school, and those who are not enrolled in secondary or postsecondary education are more likely than non-ELs to be employed full time.

Highlights include:  

  • Research questions
  • Overview of methodology
  • Key findings
  • Recommendations for further research and Implications of findings
  • An infographic that visually depicts key findings
Benefits and Uses

This study is significant because it documents educational, linguistic, and socioeconomic factors related to the interrupted formal education experienced by many young adult ELs.  Results of the study will be used to inform, strengthen and expand educational and technical assistance services, as well as further research efforts, to meet the educational needs of this under-studied population which is at a particularly high risk for experiencing poor socioeconomic outcomes as adults.  

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