Science of Parenting: Teens and Jobs

September 7, 2016, 9:05 am | Lori Korthals, Barbara Dunn Swanson, Laura Sternweis

Food Cook JobAMES, Iowa – Teenagers may view getting a job simply as a way to earn money, and that’s a valid reason to work. However, employment may bring additional benefits to teens and perhaps a few concerns for their parents, say the Science of Parenting bloggers from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Teens who have earnings from a part time job can learn how to save and budget their money. This is important, because money management is an essential life skill,” said Lori Hayungs, a human sciences specialist in family life.

“Research shows that youth also learn responsibility and gain time management, record keeping and social skills from being employed,” Hayungs said. “But parents may worry that teens who take on a part time job may let their school work slip.”

To ease that concern, Hayungs pointed to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which notes several studies indicating a positive relationship between working 20 or fewer hours per week and higher levels of subsequent educational attainment.

“Today’s teens need educational and work experiences that will enable them to compete for jobs, excel academically and live healthy lives,” added Barbara Dunn Swanson, also a human sciences specialist in family life.

Swanson shared statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor showing that 50 percent of American teenagers are employed informally by age 12, doing jobs such as babysitting or yard work. Nearly two-thirds of American teens have been employed in some way by age 15. By the time they graduate from high school, 80 percent of teens will have been employed part-time at some point during the school year. The average high school student works 20 hours per week, and about 10 percent work 35 or more hours per week.

University of Virginia researcher Christopher Ruhm and Charles Baum from Middle Tennessee State University found evidence that working part-time as a high school senior leads to future career benefits, including higher hourly wages, increased annual earnings and less time spent without employment. This holds true not only in the short-term after graduation, but also 25 to 30 years later, as shown for individuals now in their 40s and 50s, Swanson noted.

In September Hayungs, Swanson and the other Science of Parenting bloggers will explore how employment helps teens develop essential life skills. They’ll also focus on how employment can impact school success, career exploration and overall work ethic.

Learn more from tips on the blog throughout the month and in a short podcast. Through the Science of Parenting,, ISU Extension and Outreach specialists share and discuss research-based information and resources to help parents rear their children. Parents can join in the conversation and share thoughts and experiences, as well as how they handle parenting responsibilities.

The Science of Parenting from ISU Extension and Outreach also is available on Twitter and via text message.

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