Why do we need a youth program?

A significant amount of research has been conducted on the effects of youth employment finding that there are a number of benefits to young people being employed. The benefits of young people being employed are too great to not act to improve youth employment rates, which remain at record lows. Below is a sampling of the findings that illustrate how important youth employment programs are.

  • In the summer of 1999 more than 52% of teens were employed; by 2010 the summer youth employment rate had dropped to just above 30% where it has remained since then.1 2 ?The situation is even worse for teens of color. In June and July of 2013 only 19.25% of African-American teens and 26.7% of Hispanic teens were able to find employment.2
  • Teens whose parents earned more than $100,000 were far more likely to have summer employment than teens whose parents earned less than $20,000.1
  • If the June 2009 teen employment rate had matched June 2000 nearly 3 million more teens would have been working.3
  • At no time in the United States post-WWII history had the June employment rate of male teens fallen below 30% until 2009.3
  • Jobless economically disadvantaged male teens are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to attend college upon graduation, and more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system.3
  • Over their lifetime the average high school dropout will cost taxpayers over $292,000 in lower tax revenues, higher cash and in-kind transfer costs, and imposed incarceration costs relative to an average high school graduate.4
  • Annually, Iowa loses $817 in state income tax for every unemployed 18- to 24-year-old and could save an additional $307 for every employed 18- to 24-year old.5
  • A study conducted in Boston during the 2012 summer found that “meaningful employment opportunities can help reduce violent, risky, and adverse social behaviors among economically disadvantaged youth from Boston's high crime neighborhoods during the summer months and prepare them for future employment and academic experiences.”6
  • The International Labour Organization has reported that youth who are enrolled in a program that contains a classroom component, a workplace component, and other services are 53% more likely to find work afterwards than those who receive classroom training alone.7
  • Youth employment positively impacts the local economy. One of the studies that illustrates this found “for every $1 of regional wage expenditure by [a summer youth employment program], the regional workforce receives that dollar in ware earnings plus another 49 cents in additional wage earnings generated.”8
  • In recent years employers have expressed a great deal of dissatisfaction in the employability of recent high school graduates and only 19% of employers say workforce readiness is primarily the responsibility of the hiring employer, but many of these skills can only be adequately acquired through work experience.9
  • Working while in high school makes it easier for youth to transition into the workforce after graduating.10
  • Among economically disadvantaged youth, especially Black and Hispanic males [being employed during] high school can help promote school persistence and graduation.11
  • Metropolitan areas where female teens have higher employment rates tend to have lower teen pregnancy rates.12 13
  • The unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds was 16.3% in July 2013, the typical peak month for summer employment.14
  • Teens tend to have higher “hidden unemployment” than other groups. When teens perceive a difficult job market they are likely to withdraw from the job market and surveys utilizing direct interviews with youth themselves yield higher unemployment than official labor statistics which typically use relatives of teens.11
  • A young person who is unemployed for just six months can expect to earn about $22,000 less over the next 10 years than they would if they had not experienced lengthy unemployment.15
  • Current high unemployment rates mean over the next ten years Millennials will collectively lose more than $20 billion dollars in reduced wages.15
  • Some fear that being employed takes time away from academic studies, but most non-employed youth do not spend their extra time on education related activities.16


1Kevin G. Hall, “Teen employment hits record lows, suggesting lost generation”, McClatchy Washington Bureau, Washington D.C. 2013.

2“Youth Employment Rate”, United States Department of Labor, Washington DC http://www.dol.gov/odep/categories/youth/youthemployment.htm

3Andrew Sum, Joseph McLaughlin, Sheila Palma, The Collapse of the Nation's Male Teen and Young Adult Labor Market, 2000-2009: The Lost Generation of Young Male Workers, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston 2009.

4Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Joseph McLaughlin, Sheila Palma, The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Cost for Taxpayers, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston 2009.

5Rory O'Sullivan, Konrad Mugglestone, Tom Allison, In This Together: The Hidden Cost of Young Adult Unemployment, Young Invincibles, Washington DC 2014.

6Andrew Sum, Mykhayo Trubskyy, Walter McHugh, The Summer Employment Experiences and the Personal/Social Behaviors of Youth Violence Prevention Employment Program Participants and Those of a Comparison Group: Executive Summary, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston 2013.

7 “Skills for Employment Policy Brief: Increasing the Employability of Disadvantaged Youth”, International Labour Office, Geneva 2011.

8Summer Youth Employment Program Impact Analysis, Center for Economic Development and Business Research, Wichita State University, Wichita 2009.

9Jill Casner-Lotto, Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers' Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce, The Conference Board, Inc., The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Washington DC 2006.

10Andrew Sum, Robert Taggart, and Ishwar Khatiwada, The Path Dependence of Teen Employment in the U.S.: Implications for Youth Workforce Development Policy, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston 2007.

11 Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Joseph McLaughlin, Sheila Palma, The Collapse of the National Teen Job Market and the Case for An Immediate Summer and Year Round Youth Jobs Creation Program, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston 2008.

12Andrew Sum, Neeta Fogg, and Garth Mangum, Confronting the Youth Demographic Challenge: The Labor
Market Prospects of At-Risk Youth, Sar Levitan Center for Social Policy Studies, Baltimore, 2000.

13Bruce Western, Punishment and Inequality in America, Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2006.

14“Employment and Unemployment Among Youth Summary”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, Washington DC 2013.

15Sarah Ayres, Middle-Out for Millennials: An Economic Agenda for Young Americans, Center for American Progress, Washington DC 2013.

16Christopher L. Smith, Polarization, immigration, education: What's behinf the dramatic decline in youth employment?, Division of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs, Federal Reserve Board, Washington DC 2011.