NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Should Teen Students Work?

January 29, 2001

Lawmakers in some states are debating how many hours teenage students should be allowed to work after classes.

Those who would reduce the number of work hours permitted contend working long hours undermines teenagers' education and overall development. Others argue that after-school jobs teach the youngsters responsibility, punctuality and work skills that will be valuable later in life. Work also keeps them out of trouble.

  • The Department of Labor reports that 58 percent of 16-year-olds hold jobs sometime during the school year -- while another study shows that one-third of high school juniors work 20 or more hours a week.
  • Two branches of the National Academy of Sciences found that when teenagers work more than 20 hours a week, it often leads to lower grades, higher alcohol use and too little time spent with their parents and families.
  • Lawmakers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Alabama and other states have pushed in recent years to tighten laws regulating how many hours teenagers can work and how late they can do so.
  • Some economists report that the percentage of teens who work has remained at the same level in recent years, but the number of hours has increased -- due, in part, to the tight labor market.

Some youngsters from poor families have no other alternative than to work, while others do so to enjoy the extra pocket money.

Source: Steven Greenhouse, "Problems Seen for Teenagers Who Hold Jobs," New York Times, January 29, 2001.


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