The Real Reason Teens Don’t Have Summer Jobs Anymore
Life + Money

The Real Reason Teens Don’t Have Summer Jobs Anymore

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Toiling all summer as a camp counselor or lifeguard used to be a rite of passage for American teenagers, but they’ve been dropping out of the labor force for years.

Just over a third of teenagers currently work during the summer, about half the rate of teens 30 years ago.

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During the recession, the decline of teen workers over the summer was often attributed to the tough job market as older, more experienced workers were finding themselves underemployed and competing with entry-level workers. Additionally, many retailers, who have served as significant teen employers, have been closing.

Now that the economy is near full employment, however, economist Ernie Tedeschi blames something else: summer school. In a new analysis, Tedeschi shows that the decline in teen workers in July matches almost exactly the rise in full-time students.

The results hold true across every income bracket. Tedeschi points out that the data does not show what types of classes teens are taking over the summer, so it’s difficult to determine the value of those courses.

Even as 40 percent of employers are hiring seasonal workers, many teenagers are too busy with school to take on the additional load of a job. Academic pressures and tougher graduation requirements may be spurring the shift toward summer school. And school years are getting longer, reducing the period of time available for summer work. 

While some argue that a lack of work is having a negative impact on young people, research on the benefits of having a summer job is mixed.