« Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville in Quebec: unreasonable influx of cyclists into their quiet neighbourhood ? | Main | LGA thinks of users »

Teenage summer is not a summer job

1. With tougher high-school requirements and greater pressure to go to college, summer classes are the new summer job. The percent of 16-to-19-year-olds enrolled in summer school has tripled in the last 20 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rise may be directly related to the fact that parents and high schools are encouraging students to take on more classwork, according to Ben Steverman, a Bloomberg reporter who covers teen employment. He finds that the percentage of high-school grads completing at least four years of English, three years of science, math, and social science, and two years of foreign language has sextupled since the early 1980s.

2. The second reason why teens work less today is that employers are more reluctant to hire them. First, the rise of low-skill immigration in the last few decades has created more competition for exactly the sort of jobs that teenagers used to do, like grocery-store cashiers, restaurant servers, and retail salespeople. Second, older Americans stay in the workforce longer than ever, and many of them wind down their careers in office secretary and retail jobs, which used to be the province of 16-year-olds in the summer.

3. Third, the number of federally funded summer jobs, where students work temporarily with their local government, has declined. At the same time, the minimum wage has grown, which may have discouraged bosses from taking on young inexperienced workers who are only "worth" hiring at a salary that's become illegal.

4. Fourth, training. Companies have caught on to the fact that if they want to hire teenagers, they don't have to pay them at all: There has been an extraordinary rise in unpaid internships over the last decade.

-- Derek Thompson

Another big-picture explanation for the demise of teen summer jobs is cultural. Teenagers are exquisitely sensitive to the social norms of their peers. If they see cool older teenagers scooping ice cream during their freshman summer, they'll really look forward to a job scooping ice cream during their sophomore summer. But any social feedback loop can spin both ways.

Recently, the cultural norm is shifting toward summer classes and unpaid internships rather than summer jobs. Since the mid-1990s, the share of teenagers who say they wish they were working has fallen by about 50 percent, according to the BLS. That suggests--although it cannot prove--that summer jobs have lost cultural cachet,


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)