More teens choose home­work over work

A sum­mer job? These days, young peo­ple would rather learn than earn

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kel­lie Ell USA TO­DAY

Al­ida Monaco doesn’t spend her sum­mers do­ing the usual teenage stuff, such as work­ing at the mall or flip­ping burg­ers. In­stead, she stud­ies spe­cial rel­a­tiv­ity and astro­physics — by choice.

Monaco, 18, a re­cent high school grad­u­ate in New York City, spent up­ward of three hours a day on home­work in high school. Sum­mer classes al­lowed her more time to learn new things. “I chose to go to sum­mer school be­cause I wanted more experience,” Monaco said of the physics course she took last sum­mer at Brown Univer­sity. “Any­thing else I wouldn’t have had time for. I was booked every day.”

It used to be that a sum­mer job was con­sid­ered a teenage rite of pas­sage. Monaco, who has never had a sum­mer job, is

“I chose to go to sum­mer school be­cause I wanted more experience.” Al­ida Monaco, 18, high school grad­u­ate

part of a grow­ing trend of teenagers fo­cus­ing on their stud­ies — even dur­ing the sum­mer.

Forty-three per­cent of teenagers had a job last sum­mer. That’s down from the 72% of Amer­i­cans ages 16 to 19 who worked in July 1978, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics.

In­stead of in­tern­ing in an of­fice or work­ing be­hind a fast-food counter, many teens par­take in sum­mer school. Forty-two per­cent of teenagers were en­rolled in classes last sum­mer — al­most four times the num­ber of stu­dents en­rolled in sum­mer school in July 1985.

In­creased com­pe­ti­tion, older work­ers re­turn­ing to the work­force and weak eco­nomic growth all con­trib­ute to the de­cline of teenagers in the work­force. As school­work grows in­creas­ingly in­tense, data sug­gest the big­gest rea­son some teens won’t work this sum­mer is that they sim­ply don’t have time.

“Stu­dents are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to course­work and spend­ing more time on school ac­tiv­i­ties,” said Teresa Morisi, branch chief of the Divi­sion of Oc­cu­pa­tional Em­ploy­ment Pro­jec­tions at the BLS.

Course­work isn’t get­ting any eas­ier. From 1982 to 2009, the per­cent­age of high school stu­dents tak­ing ad­vanced math classes, such as Cal­cu­lus, Ge­om­e­try and Al­ge­bra II, has more than dou­bled. More stu­dents take sta­tis­tics and load up on for­eign lan­guages.

Mag­gie Wil­liams, 17, a high school ju­nior in Kens­ing­ton, Md., said she’s un­der con­stant pres­sure to max­i­mize her time.

“I cried to­day be­cause I was scared for my fu­ture,” said Wil­liams, who took four Ad­vanced Place­ment classes her ju­nior year and will take four more next fall. She’s also in­volved in sev­eral stu­dent clubs.

Teens who do want to work face in­creased com­pe­ti­tion from a flood of avail­able work­ers. In Belling­ham, Wash., Kaylie Hud­son, 17, spent five months look­ing for a sum­mer job be­fore get­ting hired at a Tar­get store.

In 2016, the me­dian age of re­tail em­ploy­ees was 37.9 years old, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures. In the leisure and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­tries, which have his­tor­i­cally been dom­i­nated by teenagers, the me­dian age is 31.3. In restau­rants and other food-ser­vice trades, where most teens look for work, the me­dian age is 28.6 years old.

As the min­i­mum wage shoots up through­out the na­tion, em­ploy­ers are likely to hire some­one older.

“It’s Fri­day night, and em­ploy­ers don’t have to worry about the older per­son blow­ing off work for a party,” said Paul Har­ring­ton, a pro­fes­sor at Drexel Univer­sity who stud­ied teenagers in the la­bor mar­ket.

Young peo­ple who don’t work may miss out on valu­able skills such as re­li­a­bil­ity, fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence, self-con­trol and the abil­ity to nav­i­gate adult sit­u­a­tions.

Monaco, who plans to at­tend Har­vard in the fall, isn’t fazed by her lack of work experience: “I don’t think it will harm me in any way.”

TEENS IN SUM­MER JOBS Per­cent­age of U.S. teenagers em­ployed in July, the height of sum­mer em­ploy­ment:

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