July 24, 2000
Youths aged 15-17 from families with incomes greater than the national median are about twice as likely to work as youths from families whose income is in the lowest quartile.
In 1998, almost 30 percent of youths from families with annual incomes above the median of $51,000 were employed. Only 15 percent of youths worked when family income was below $27,300 (that is, families in the lowest quartile).
There are a number of reasons why children of higher-income families are more likely to work than those of poorer families. Youths in higher-income families may have greater access to a car or to an adult who will drive them to a place of work. It is also possible that nonmarket work such as housework and unpaid child care more often falls to youths in lower-income families; such families may have fewer adults than higher-income families. This would make youths in lower-income homes relatively less available for market work—or available only for specific schedules.
Data on trends in youth employment are a product of the Current Population Survey, a monthly labor force survey of 50,000 households. Youths are considered employed if they worked for pay at least 1 hour during the reference week or if they worked for no pay in a family business for at least 15 hours. Income divisions in the chart were determined using quartiles; in 1998, one quarter of families had income below $27,300; one half had income below $51,000; and three quarters had income below $80,000. Additional information is available from Chapter 4 of the Report on the Youth Labor Force.