American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 54, Issue 3–4, pp 262–273 | Cite as

The Long Arm of Mentoring: A Counterfactual Analysis of Natural Youth Mentoring and Employment Outcomes in Early Careers

  • Steve McDonald
  • Joshua Lambert
Original Article


Young people often develop natural mentoring relationships with nonparental adults during adolescence and young adulthood. While much has been learned about the benefits of natural mentoring for more proximate outcomes such as mental health and education, relatively little is known about the causal impact of youth mentoring relationships on career opportunities. This study uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) survey to explore the effects of different kinds of natural mentoring relationships on employment outcomes during the early career years (when workers are in their late twenties and early thirties). Whereas traditional methods of causal conditioning show a broad range of employment benefits from being mentored, results from counterfactual analysis using propensity score matching reveal that the benefits of mentoring are confined to intrinsic job rewards. The findings imply that mentors help steer youth toward intrinsically rewarding careers.


Mentoring Employment Work Youth 



This research was generously supported by a U.S. Department of Labor’s Scholars Program grant. Special thanks to Albert Yung-Hsu Liu, Jacob Kraemer Tebes, and the anonymous reviewer for their comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the paper. Lance Erickson provided expert assistance on the statistical software coding. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agencies.


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Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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