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February 2008, Vol. 131, No. 2
Youth enrollment and employment during the school year
Teresa L. Morisi
Having a job as a teenager can be a valuable experience, teaching responsibility, and organizational and time management skills, along with providing a paycheck.1 Teens, though, must balance their school requirements with their work preferences during the school year. The Current Population Survey (CPS) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces data on school enrollment and employment for teens. These data show that teens are enrolled in school at increasingly higher rates since the mid 1980s (when the CPS began collecting monthly enrollment data for persons aged 16–24), while fewer teens are employed during the school year than in the past. Both teens who are in school and those who are not in school saw their employment rates decline; however, the decline for students has been greater than for nonstudents.
This article analyzes changes in school enrollment and employment patterns for teens who are between the ages of 16 and 19. The data are analyzed separately for youths aged 16–17 and 18–19, and by sex, race, and ethnicity. Both students in high school and students enrolled in college are included; of those 16- to 19-year-olds enrolled in 2007, about three-quarters were in high school, with the remainder in college. As noted, data on youth enrollment and employment come from the CPS, a monthly survey of about 60,000 households, and are averages for the 9 months that youths normally attend school (January–May and September–December, referred to hereafter as "school months").2 Youths considered to be not working or not employed in this analysis either are unemployed or do not participate in the labor force. CPS data on the enrollment and working status of youths are published annually as part of America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well Being, a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, of which BLS is a member.3
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1 Some studies and policy recommendations have encouraged teenagers to work, while others have espoused the negative effects of teen employment. Donna S. Rothstein summarizes these issues and presents original research in "High School Employment and Youths’ Academic Achievement," Journal of Human Resources, Winter 2007, pp. 194–213.
2 The CPS enrollment data analyzed in this article are from the basic monthly survey and may differ from enrollment data collected through the CPS October school enrollment supplement.
3 Data on the well-being of youths can be accessed at the Internet site of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics: www.childstats.gov (visited Feb. 5, 2008). The Forum is a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The Forum has partners from 20 Federal agencies, as well as partners in private research organizations.
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