Tie on that apron, kids: Drexel University study says teens who have jobs are more likely to succeed

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According to a study published by Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy, teens who spend some time bagging groceries or syphoning fries into happy meals have a larger shot at success throughout their career.

Paul Harrington, a Drexel University labor economist and lead author of the study, says that work experience in a formal job during high school (from ages 16 to 19) correspond to a 20 to 25 percent increase in salary for teens almost a decade later. In this case, a “formal” job means a gig in food service or retail for a larger company, as opposed to work like babysitting or cutting the neighbor’s grass. High school students who work, he says, are also more likely to have a job a decade after high school than their peers. The numbers are even stronger for teen boys, Harrington says.

“I think there’s a dignity in work,” Harrington says. “It’s really important for people to understand how they contribute to making an organization function. The way you understand how that works is by doing it.”

The study did reveal some bad news, however. As the economy has suffered, jobs for teens have become more difficult to come by. In the Metro Philadelphia area, the study revealed that in 2000, about 44 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 had jobs. Today, that number has fallen to 25 percent, mostly due to the lack of employment opportunities and to the fact that older workers are holding onto jobs longer than they have in previous decades.

The other piece of data that the study revealed is that attendance in high school is a very strong indicator of good things to come. Harrington says that having high daily attendance in high school means that students have a much higher chance of graduating from college.

“Woody allen said 90% of life is showing up,” Harrington says. “Turns out he was right.”


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