Millennials and the World of Work: Experiences in Paid Work During Adolescence
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This article considers some important questions faced by youth as they enter and adapt to paid work. We focus on two key questions: (1) how many hours should teenagers work during the school year and (2) what available jobs are desirable?
To help answer these questions, we review studies that have examined the effects of early work experiences on academic achievement, positive youth development, and health-risk behaviors. We also draw upon nationally representative data from the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study to illustrate some new findings on youth employment.
Moderate work hours, especially in jobs of higher-quality, are associated with a broad range of positive developmental outcomes.
These questions are not only important to teenagers and their parents, they also reflect key debates among scholars in sociology, developmental psychology, and economics regarding the potential short- and long-term consequences of early work experiences for social development and socioeconomic achievement.
Although work intensity is an important dimension of adolescent work experience, it is clearly not the only one and we argue that it may not even be the most important one. By focusing on types and qualities of jobs, more can be gained in terms of understanding for whom and under what conditions teenage work does provide benefits for and detriments to youth development.
KeywordsTeenage employment School-to-work transition School achievement Problem behaviors Work quality Life course studies
The first author gratefully acknowledges support from a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in Population Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (K01 HD054467). This paper uses data from the Monitoring the Future study, which is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA01411); the second author gratefully acknowledges support from this grant. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the sponsors. We also wish to acknowledge our coauthors on several related projects that we describe in this review: Jerald G. Bachman, Emily Messersmith, D. Wayne Osgood, and Michael Parks.
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