The decline in youth employ­ment is part of a broader shift in working pat­terns. Amer­i­cans are entering the work­force later and staying in it longer than at any time in his­tory. Andrew Sum, a North­eastern Uni­ver­sity econ­o­mist and expert in youth employ­ment, points to a remark­able sta­tistic: A decade ago, a 16– or 17-​​year-​​old boy was twice as likely to have a job as his 70-​​year-​​old grand­fa­ther. Today, the grand­fa­ther is actu­ally more likely to have a job than the boy. That’s an amazing shift in so short a period of time.

What’s going on? For young adults in their late teens and early 20s, rising rates of col­lege atten­dance are a big part of the story. But that’s less of a factor for kids still in high school. Some high-​​schoolers may be opting out of work in order to focus on col­lege application-​​boosting extra-​​curricular activ­i­ties, but the decline in employ­ment has been most pro­nounced among teens from low-​​income fam­i­lies, not the middle class. Nor does the min­imum wage—often cited as a major bar­rier to youth employment—appear to be a dri­ving force: Much of the decline came in the early 2000s, when the min­imum wage was flat.

Read the article at The Wall Street Journal →