Data on Teenagers and Jobs

An article in the business press raises the question of why fewer teenagers are employed than before. Perhaps there is an increasing realization that renting yourself to a corporation for a low wage isn’t exactly an enjoyable and meaningful experience.

That’s part of how the game is currently structured though — many people working for institutions that are not working for them.

Why aren’t teens working? Lots of theories have been offered: They’re being crowded out of the workforce by older Americans, now working past 65 at the highest rates in more than 50 years. Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs; a 2012 study found that less educated immigrants affected employment for U.S. native-born teenagers far more than for native-born adults. Parents are pushing kids to volunteer and sign up for extracurricular activities instead of working, to impress college admission counselors. College-bound teens aren’t looking for work because the money doesn’t go as far as it used to. “Teen earnings are low and pay little toward the costs of college,” the BLS noted this year. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Elite private universities charge tuition of more than $50,000.