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May 2007, Vol. 130, No. 5
Teen time use and parental education: evidence from the CPS, MTF, and ATUS
Shirley L. Porterfield and Anne E. Winkler
Recent research based on data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) points to a secular decline in overall teen employment since the late 1970s—a decline that accelerated beginning in 2000. Indeed, the acceleration has been characterized in the literature as "stunning."1 For instance, as shown in chart 1, the teen employment-population ratio in 2005 stood at 36.5 percent, well below the rates of the previous 35 years, including the low points associated with the recessions of 1981–82, 1991, and 2001. Although some of this change might be attributed to rising school enrollment, because teens in school are less likely to be employed (and also because they work fewer hours), CPS data show a decrease in teen employment even among those enrolled in high school. For instance, from the 1995–96 school year to the 2003–04 school year, employment rates of enrolled teens fell from 34.2 percent to 27.0 percent.2 Given this observed shift in teens’ allocation of time away from employment, how are teens spending these hours? Recent anecdotal discussions, both scholarly and in the popular press, suggest that teens in more highly educated and economically advantaged families are being steered away from paid employment toward activities that are expected to increase their likelihood of acceptance to, and success in, college.3 To what extent is this story consistent with nationally representative data? What about time-use patterns and trends in hours worked for teens in families with less educated parents? Many of the activities teens find themselves in, by choice or default, can have important long-term consequences for their academic and employment success.
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1 Daniel Aaronson, Kyung-Hong Park, and Daniel Sullivan, "The Decline in Teen Labor Force Participation," Economic Perspectives (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago), first quarter, 2006, pp. 2–18. (See also "Declining Teen Labor Force Participation," Summary 02–06, Issues in Labor Statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2002); and Chinhui Juhn and Simon Potter, "Changes in Labor Force Participation in the United States, Journal of Economic Perspectives, summer 2006, pp. 27–46.)
2 See figures in table 1 for enrolled high school students. Figures are calculated by the authors from CPS outgoing rotations.
3 See Sandra L. Hofferth, David A. Kinney, and Janet S. Dunn, "The ‘Hurried’ Child: Middle-Class Phenomenon or Value Shift?" University of Maryland Working Paper, February 2006; Robert B. Reich, "How Selective Colleges Heighten Inequality," Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 15, 2000; and Barbara Hagenbaugh, "Full Activity, Study Schedules Have Many Teens Just Saying No to Jobs," USA Today, Apr. 7, 2005, p. 1B.
Related BLS programs
American Time Use Survey (ATUS)
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
time use at stages of the life cycle..—Sept.
Education and the work histories of young adults.—Apr. 1993.
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