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August, 2001, Vol. 124, No. 8

Youth employment during school: results from two longitudinal surveys

Donna S. Rothstein

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.

This excerpt is from an article published in the August 2001 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.

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Related BLS programs

National Longitudinal Surveys

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