Summer School, Not Summer Jobs

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — July 10, 2007 1 min read
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More teens are spending summer days in school rather than on the job, USA Today reports. According to U.S. Labor Department statistics released July 6, only 48.8% of teens ages 16 to 19 were working or looking for work in June. That was down from 51.6% in June 2006 and below the 60.2% in the labor force in June 2000, reporter Barbara Hagenbaugh writes. The reasons for the downturn are varied, including more adult competition for jobs that once went to teens and more families saving for college—which means students don’t have to earn as much cash to pay college tuition. In addition, one expert tells the newspaper that teens see the benefits of extra learning. “The value of school is higher than it used to be,” said Daniel Sullivan, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University has been tracking the decline in youth employment for several years. The center’s April 2007 study found that teens living in low-income families—family income of less than $20,000 a year—were the least likely to have summer jobs—only 32 percent were working. By contrast, those in families with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 were the most likely to hold jobs. Approximately 52 percent of those teens did have jobs.

But in her Working Parents blog on the BusinessWeek Web site, Cathy Arnst writes about the downside of foregoing summer work. The “most valuable” lesson of her first summer job working as a waitress at a small-town diner: “how to be a responsible employee, a skill that I think can only be gained on the job,” Arnst writes.

“Without that first job, and all the other waitress jobs I held afterwards, I never would have been able to afford college, my ticket to a job in journalism—a career I really do value more than waiting tables,” she concludes.

So, what do you think? Do teens need more time in the classroom, or do the benefits of a summer job exceed the paycheck?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Around the Web blog.