Early 2000s: A Period of Declining Teen Summer Employment Rates
In the United States the summer job has long been thought of as a rite of passage for teenagers. However, a 2010 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that youth seasonal employment has been steadily declining since 2001, long before the 2007-2008 recession.
The study, “Early 2000s: A Period of Declining Teen Summer Employment Rates,” was published in Monthly Labor Review and tracks teen employment between 1948 and 2009. The researcher analyzed data from approximately 60,000 households in the Current Population Survey (CPS) to assess trends among youth ages 16-19 throughout this period.
Key study findings include:
- The teen summer employment rate held steady at approximately 50% from 1950 to 2000 before steadily declining after 2000: it went from 51.5% in the summer of 2000 to 48% in 2001; it then declined further to 41.7% (2003), 37.4% (2008) and 32.9% (2009). (According to CPS data from April 2012, the employment rate for youth ages 16-19 in July 2011 was 24.9%.)
- “Teens in families with higher educational attainment exhibited a decrease in the time they spent in paid employment and an increase in their rates of volunteering.… [A related study] indicated that teens in the most highly educated families spent much more time in ‘traditional’ activities, including extracurricular activities, reading and writing, and pursuing hobbies.”
- More teens are enrolling in summer school programs than in the past. “More than half (53%) of youths aged 16-19 years were enrolled in school sometime during the summer of 2009, a percentage close to three times higher than that 20 years earlier.” Students typically enroll to “catch up” on missing coursework or to prep for future college work as competition for preferred colleges grows.
- “Reduced funding and additional program restrictions, as well as increases in Federal and State minimum wages, have resulted in municipalities offering fewer summer jobs.” In particular, federal funding for summer teen employment, designed to help students save for college, dropped 8% between 1999 and 2009.
- Between 1948 and 2000, the summer employment rate for young women rose while the rates for young men declined; since 2000, the employment rates for both declined by approximately 20 percentage points.
- Between 2000 and 2009, summer employment rates for all ethnic groups declined between 15 and 20 percentage points. White youth experienced the most dramatic decline, from 56.4% to 36.8% employment.
While some of the decline in teen employment is likely explained by an increased focus on education, the researchers concluded that “there is evidence as well that the types of jobs that teens would normally fill have become scarcer: not only is there increased competition for such jobs from other groups, but also, fewer summer jobs are funded through government programs.”
Tags: youth, employment
Read the issue-related CNN article titled "Forecast For Teen Summer Job Market: Mostly Sunny."
- What key insights from the study and article should reporters be aware of as they cover issues relating to teenagers and summer employment?
Read the full study titled "Early 2000s: A Period of Declining Teen Summer Employment Rates."
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?