Youth Employment during School: Results from Two Longitudinal Surveys; Students Who Worked 20 or Fewer Hours per Week during the School Year Were More Likely to Attend College; Youths Who Worked a Greater Percentage of Weeks during the School Year Worked More Consistently When They Reached Ages 18 to 30. (Working While in School)

By Rothstein, Donna S. | Monthly Labor Review, August 2001 | Go to article overview
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Youth Employment during School: Results from Two Longitudinal Surveys; Students Who Worked 20 or Fewer Hours per Week during the School Year Were More Likely to Attend College; Youths Who Worked a Greater Percentage of Weeks during the School Year Worked More Consistently When They Reached Ages 18 to 30. (Working While in School)


Rothstein, Donna S., Monthly Labor Review


According to a popular perception, youths work more today than in the past and their employment may not always lead to desirable consequences. The concern is that a young person's employment, particularly when the individual works many hours, may reduce study time, increase school lateness and absenteeism rates, and adversely affect grades. However, a youth's employment also may provide some positive benefits, teaching about workplace norms and responsibilities and helping to ease the person's subsequent transition from school to work full time. In addition, these costs and benefits associated with a person's working while young could have an impact on the individual's long-term educational and labor market outcomes.

The first part of this article compares the employment of today's youth with that of a youth cohort from nearly 20 years ago. It asks whether 15- and 16-year-olds are, in fact, more likely to work today and examines whether the likelihood of a young person's being employed while attending school varies across youths with different demographic characteristics. Also examined in this part is how the distribution of hours of work of 16-year-olds varies across the two cohorts. Data come from the first round of a new survey of youth--the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97)--and from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). In the first round of each survey, 15- and 16-year-olds answered similar questions about their current employment status and hours of work. In addition, many demographic measures that may be associated with youths' decisions to work are similar across the two surveys.

The second part of the article looks at the relationship between the employment of 16- and 17-year-old youths attending school and their future academic and labor market outcomes--specifically, college attendance, weeks of work from ages 18 through 30, and number of jobs held from ages 18 through 30. Data are from the NLSY79, which has followed the lives of survey respondents for more than 20 years. As the NESY97 cohort ages, researchers will be able to use that survey to study how today's school-enrolled youths' employment affects their long-term educational and labor market experiences.

Background

Youths may choose to work while they are enrolled in school for a variety of reasons. They may want to earn income to support their family, pay for personal expenses (for example, a car), or save for college. Parents may encourage youths to work because they believe that working will teach them responsibility and punctuality. In addition, youths (particularly those who are not bound for college) may want to obtain job experience that will assist them in their subsequent transition from school to work. A goal of the 1994 School-to-Work Opportunities Act is to strengthen the relationship between schooling and work. However, youths' employment may, in fact, decrease their time for completing homework, cause them to come to school tired and less focused on schoolwork, and, thus, adversely affect their academic achievement.

Many earlier studies that examined the impact of youth employment failed to take into account that the choice to work while attending school and the consequences of working are intertwined. Youths who choose to work may be systematically different from youths who do not work. In addition, youths who work a high number of hours may be different (even before they begin to work) from those who work a moderate number of hours. The differences may be related to observable characteristics, such as one's family background, or to unobservable characteristics, such as one's motivation. Thus, in itself, working while attending school may not be the cause of particular positive or negative consequences; rather, youths who choose to work may have some preexisting differences and would have had those outcomes anyway. This factor complicates any evaluation of the impact of youth employment.

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Youth Employment during School: Results from Two Longitudinal Surveys; Students Who Worked 20 or Fewer Hours per Week during the School Year Were More Likely to Attend College; Youths Who Worked a Greater Percentage of Weeks during the School Year Worked More Consistently When They Reached Ages 18 to 30. (Working While in School)
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