The income gap knows no bounds, and a fact that is particularly evident in a new study. According to research from Drexel University, affluent teenagers are much more likely to get summer jobs than their less well-off counterparts. Not good, guys. Not good at all.
Researchers at Drexel's Center for Labor Markets and Policy found that while job prospects for teenagers in general are grim (an average of 27 percent of teenagers were employed in 2014, down from 47 percent in 2000), jobs may be even harder to come by for the young people who need them most. Employment, they found, rose almost identically with family income level: In families that made less than $20,000 a year, about 20 percent of teenagers were employed, while in families that made $100,000 to $149,000 a year, about 41 percent of teenagers had jobs.
What does this kind of selective employment do? Compound the issues of poverty — but while the statistics are upsetting, they are not particularly surprising. Kids from affluent families have innumerable advantages and head-starts in life, and teen employment is just one of them. Research done by the Urban Alliance shows that teen employment teaches young people skills they will need to advance their careers later in life,, and not having those skills is a disadvantage for future job prospects. This is just one way in which the vicious cycle of poverty lives on.
I see this play out literally every day. I go to a university where it's anathema not to have a summer job or internship, and many of us turn to our elite career placement center or even our parents to help hook us up with jobs. I'd be remiss not to mention that I learned about most of my internships from creative careers fairs at school. The playing field is so uneven it's hard to imagine we're all on the same one. My friends and I all have jobs this summer not because we're so talented or brilliant (though some are), but because we feel entitled to them, and the system in place tells us that we're right. We deserve jobs every summer and upon graduation because we've made it this far. But a lot of us made it this far with a lot of help from our parents, tutors, one on one coaching, and private schools.
A small ray of hope, perhaps, is that teenagers are in general expected to be employed in slightly higher numbers than they were last year. It is expected that 30 percent of teenagers will have jobs this summer. So, that's something, I guess.