July 24, 2000 (The Editor’s Desk is updated each business day.)

Youths from higher-income families more likely to work

Youths aged 15-17 from families with incomes greater than the national median are about twice as likely to work as youths from families whose income is in the lowest quartile.

Employment-population ratios of 15-17 year olds in March 1999, by 1998 family income
[Chart data—TXT]

In 1998, almost 30 percent of youths from families with annual incomes above the median of $51,000 were employed. Only 15 percent of youths worked when family income was below $27,300 (that is, families in the lowest quartile).

There are a number of reasons why children of higher-income families are more likely to work than those of poorer families. Youths in higher-income families may have greater access to a car or to an adult who will drive them to a place of work. It is also possible that nonmarket work such as housework and unpaid child care more often falls to youths in lower-income families; such families may have fewer adults than higher-income families. This would make youths in lower-income homes relatively less available for market work—or available only for specific schedules.

Data on trends in youth employment are a product of the Current Population Survey, a monthly labor force survey of 50,000 households. Youths are considered employed if they worked for pay at least 1 hour during the reference week or if they worked for no pay in a family business for at least 15 hours. Income divisions in the chart were determined using quartiles; in 1998, one quarter of families had income below $27,300; one half had income below $51,000; and three quarters had income below $80,000. Additional information is available from Chapter 4 of the Report on the Youth Labor Force.

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