Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, young people had a peculiar position in Italian public and institutional discourses. On the one hand, their complex living conditions nourished preoccu-pations and calls for intervention to save an "endangered" social group. On the other hand, young people’s behaviours were constantly placed under scrutiny as potentially dangerous for themselves and society. Through an analysis of public and institutional discourses on youth and youth policies elaborated during the pandemic, the article analyses the interplay of these competing narratives in political and policy choices during the Covid-19 emergency exploring how young people’s (un)deservingness has been framed. In doing so, the article asks what understanding of youth sustains recent institutional choices in terms of resources distribution and what institutions have learnt on (and from) young people during the pandemic.