The Downside Of Student Employment Essay

2662 words - 11 pages

The Downside of Student Employment

    In the last thirty years there has been a significant change in the adolescent experience in the United States. The teenagers of today have jobs. While the teenagers of yesteryear had occasional jobs like baby-sitting and yard work or summer jobs at the pool or on the farm, today’s teenagers have employment during the school year that requires a substantial investment of time. In the past, teenagers were either workers or students; working students usually dropped out of school. Part-time work for students was scarce. Now part-time work is common, and certain segments of the economy rely on the ready availability of low-paid teen-age labor.


      In many ways, the high school experience, with its social life, clubs,

      sports, and volunteer service opportunities, may appear much the same as

      in the past. But the time and commitment required by employment have

      brought about significant changes in student attitudes and experiences.

      The effects of student employment are consequential and pervasive.

      Two major studies examining high school students and their world of

      school, work, family, and peers, have considered the issue of student

      employment. In Beyond the Classroom, Laurence Steinberg and his associates

      report on their comprehensive survey of 20,000 students over ten years,

      focusing on student "engagement" with school. (Referred to in notes as

      Steinberg.) Another 6-year study of 7000 students looked at student

      ambitions and how well they align with reality. This study is reported in

      The Ambitious Generation: America's Teenagers, Motivated but

      Directionless, by Barbara Schneider and David Stevenson (herein referred

      to as Schneider.) Laurence Steinberg also did a survey of the research on

      adolescent employment entitled "The Impact of Employment on Adolescent

      Development," recorded in Annals of Child Development, vol.11 (herein

      referred to as Annals.)


      How many students are working? And how much? Accurate figures are hard to

      come by. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, which rely largely on

      employer surveys, indicate about 40% of high school students are in the

      work force. But employers are highly motivated to underreport student

      employment, in order to avoid paying Social Security taxes and to

      circumvent child labor laws. Based on student and parent surveys,

      Steinberg reports that 65% of students are employed sometime during the

      school year, with 33% working at any given moment. Of course, older

      students work more than younger ones. He estimates that 75% of seniors,

      65% of juniors, 50% of sophomores, 40% of freshmen, and even 33% of

      8th-graders worked...

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