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NC State Extension Economist Dr. Mike Walden – “The Decline in Working Teens”


Mary:  This is Mary Walden with economist MW, welcoming you to the economic perspective.  Today’s program looks at the decline in working teens.  Mike, when you and I were teenagers decades ago – we won’t say how many – we worked for pay during the summer.  I supervised a playground and you started in fast food and then moved on to delivering furniture.   Are our experiences being repeated by today’s teenagers?

Mike: Summary Answer


  1. No they’re not
  2. Summer teenage employment peaked in 1978, when 72% of teenagers held a summer job
  3. Today the rate is 43%
  4. And it’s not necessarily for a lack of jobs – in a recent survey only 9% of teenagers who didn’t have a job said they wanted to work
  5. Instead, most non-working teenagers appear to be doing other things – hobbies, sports, or even school
  6. The problem is that like you – I found I learned a lot about working, taking orders, working with others, etc. – that were valuable life experiences
  7. Some economists wonder if the low teenage summer employment rate is related to slow economy-wide productivity improvement
  8. I’m MW

Mary:  And I’m Mary Walden for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service