New York City's Young Men's Initiative

By - FEB. 27, 2014

Today President Obama is launching the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, which will take action with foundations, businesses, and others to make sure that every willing young man of color has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential.

The program’s goals and strategies are based in large part on a New York City program – the Young Men’s Initiative, which was launched by Mayor Mike Bloomberg in August 2011 as the nation’s boldest and most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of black and Latino young men. The Young Men’s Initiative team helped provide guidance to the White House as they developed their program.

The Young Men's Initiative is public-private partnership, made possible through funding from the Open Society Foundations and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Why We Launched The Young Men’s Initiative:

When you look at data on poverty, high school dropouts, unemployment, and crime, one fact stands out: black and Latino young men are disproportionately behind, faring poorly compared to white peers on all social outcomes, including (New York City data):

  • 50 percent greater rates of poverty
  • 25 percent lower graduation rates
  • 10 times higher incarceration rates

The socio-economic disadvantages follow these young men through a lifetime. The problem is nationwide as government programs were not changing the outcomes for young men of color despite large social service safety nets in many cities and states.


In part, two key reasons:

  1. Young adults ‘don't fit’ in government agencies, which are either organized around the children or organized around the adults. The adolescents are lost in between with no one primarily responsible for thinking about them.
  2. Men are largely ignored in social service agencies, which are organized largely around the adult with custody of children – primarily women.

So young men get missed twice.

It’s a problem every city and state faces, but governments do not organize around the problem or create systems that provide accountability to improve these outcomes.

A new approach was needed.

The Initiative’s Scope:

The Young Men’s Initiative was created to fix the gaps in government programs and install accountability for their outcomes.

The initiative has four areas of focus: education, employment, health and justice. It spans more than 40 programs and policies and encompasses 20 City government agencies. The program uses a combination of policy changes with system-wide impact and innovative pilot programs to measure new concepts.

Our prime goal was simple: to ensure that more black and Latino young men have a chance to fully share in the promise of the American Dream and begin to break the cycle of poverty and the revolving doors in the justice system.

Program Examples:


  • School Discipline Code Reforms to provide clarity in expectations for behavior and alternative resolution strategies, to help ensure positive growth and better performance, and reduce suspensions.


  • The Young Adult Internship Program provides short-term paid internships, job placements, education or advanced training, and follow-up services to young adults who are not in school and are not working.


  • The CUNY Fatherhood Academy strengthens and often reconnects fathers and families and promotes responsible fatherhood, economic stability and educational advancement by connecting current and expectant fathers throughout the five boroughs to educational, employment and parenting resources.


  • The Advocate, Intervene, Mentor program provides intensive advocacy to adolescents on juvenile probation who are in jeopardy of being incarcerated due to a probation revocation.

Overall Results So Far:

The initiative began little more than two years ago, but it’s already seeing results on decades’ old problems.


  • Suspensions dropped 23 percent and school based arrests dropped 34 percent.


  • Young Men’s Initiative employment programs have achieved a 77 percent placement rate for program participants, far above the typical national performance rate of 50 to 55 percent for young men of color.


  • Teen pregnancy rates have declined 15 percent over the last two years.
  • Gun violence has dropped 28 percent in Young Men’s Initiative targeted neighborhoods.


  • Reforms dramatically decreased out-of-home confinement for NYC youth with a 38 percent drop in juvenile detention, 61 percent drop in juvenile placement and slight drops in recidivism.

For more information on the NYC Young Men’s Initiative, visit: