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Steven A. Camarota is the director of research and Karen Zeigler is a demographer at the Center.
The share of U.S.-born teenagers (16 to 19) in the labor force — working or looking for work — in the summer has been declining for more than two decades, long before the downturn that began in 2007. We project that things will improve only slightly this summer. At the same time as teenage employment has declined, the overall number of immigrants (legal and illegal) holding a job has more than doubled. The evidence indicates that immigration has likely accounted for a significant share of the decline in teen labor force participation. The decline in teen work is worrisome because research shows that those who do not hold jobs as teenagers often fail to develop the work habits necessary to function in the labor market, creating significant negative consequences for them later in life.
Among the findings:
- In the summer of 2017, 41 percent of U.S.-born teenagers were in the labor force and just 35 percent held a job. In 2018, we project only a slight improvement to 42 percent in the labor force and 36 percent actually working — both levels well below what they used to be.
- The current low rate of teen employment compares to 48 percent in the labor force in the summer of 2007 before the Great Recession, 61 percent in 2000, and 64 percent in 1994.
- The official teen unemployment rate — those actively looking for a job — has fallen considerably. However, the unemployment rate obscures the low labor force participation rate for those who are out of the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) and who are not accounted for in the unemployment rate.
- The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased from 4.7 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 2007. It peaked in 2010 at 9.3 million. In the summer of 2017, 9.1 million U.S.-born teenagers were not in the labor force. In 2018, we project it will fall only slightly to nine million.
- The decline in summer teen employment is similar for U.S.-born blacks, Hispanics, and whites. Between 1994 and 2017, the summer labor force participation rate for black teens declined from 50 percent to 36 percent; for Hispanic teens from 52 percent to 34 percent; and for white teens from 69 percent to 45 percent.
- Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2017, in the 25 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, more than one in five workers was an immigrant.
- Comparisons across states in 2017 show that in the 10 states with the largest shares of immigrant workers, just 36 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force. In contrast, in the 10 states with the smallest shares of immigrant workers, 49 percent of teens were in the labor force.
- Looking at change over time shows that in the 10 states where immigrants increased the most as a share of workers since 1994, labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined by 26 percentage points. In the 10 states where immigrants increased the least, teen labor force participation declined 19 percentage points.
- The most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the vast majority of immigrants are fully developed adults — relatively few people migrate before age 20. This gives immigrants a significant advantage over U.S.-born teenagers who typically have much less work experience.
- The labor force participation of immigrant teenagers has also declined, though it was low even in the early 1990s. This, along with the similar decline for U.S.-born teens from all racial and income backgrounds, supports the idea that the arrival of so many adult immigrants, who often take jobs traditionally done by teenagers, crowds all teenagers out of the labor force, both U.S.-born and foreign-born.
- Although there is good evidence that immigration is reducing teenage labor market participation, other factors have likely also contributed to this problem.
Factors that do not explain the decline:
- A rise in unpaid internships is an unlikely cause.
- First, the decline for 19-year-old high school dropouts, who are unlikely to be in internships, is similar to the decline for 19-year-olds who attend college and who are much more likely to be in internships.
- Second, estimates of the number of unpaid internships shows that they are far too small in number to account for the 4.4 million increase in the number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force.
- Although a larger share of teens are enrolled in summer school, the fall-off in employment is similar for those in school and those who are not. Analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of the decline in labor force participation would have occurred regardless of the increase in enrollment.
- Teens from low-income households are actually the least likely to be in the labor force, with higher-income teens more likely to work. It is therefore very unlikely that the decline in labor force participation simply reflects high-income parents buying their teenage children everything they want so they do not have to work.
Teenagers working in the summer are an enduring image of life in the United States. As the weather warms, older high school students, some who failed to graduate high school, new high school graduates, and those in the first years of college have traditionally filled jobs as waiters, waitresses, lifeguards, baby-sitters, landscapers, laborers, cashiers, and other occupations that require relatively little formal education. But this rite of summer has become less and less common for American teens. In 1994, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-born teenagers were in the summer labor force; by 2007 less than half were in the labor force, and in 2017 this number was just 41 percent.
At the same time as U.S.-born teenagers are working less and less in the summer, many business associations are lobbying Congress to increase the number of immigrants allowed into the country. The employers arguing specifically for an increase in seasonal guestworkers are among the most politically active. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been in the forefront of arguing that legal immigration has to be increased because there are not enough workers available. Also, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) was specifically founded to work for legal status for illegal immigrants and to increase legal immigration, including guestworker programs to allow in more unskilled workers. EWIC includes the National Restaurant Association, American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Nursery & Landscape Association, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, International Franchise Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Retail Federation, and the Outdoor Amusement Business Association.1 All of these industries employ large numbers of seasonal workers to do jobs that require modest levels of formal education. These are specifically the types of jobs traditionally done by teenagers.
It is very difficult to reconcile the perspective of employers who argue that there are not enough seasonal workers with the huge decline in teenage summer employment. If workers were in short supply, then more teenagers should have been drawn into the labor market, the opposite of what actually happened.
While some employers have argued that immigration needs to be substantially increased, the level of immigration is already very high. Between 1994 and 2017, the number of immigrants (legal and illegal) holding jobs grew 127 percent to 26.5 million. Nearly one million green cards (permanent immigration) were issued each year on average over this time period and the number of illegal immigrants in the country is estimated to have roughly doubled.2
While much smaller in scale than illegal immigration and permanent legal immigration, there are also a number of programs that allow foreign temporary workers to take unskilled seasonal jobs outside of agriculture, such as the H-2B program for seasonal non-agriculture work.
One of the most important programs for seasonal non-agricultural workers is the H-2B program, which in recent years has certified roughly 100,000 positions a year for seasonal non-agricultural work visas. More than once in recent years, Congress has authorized an increase in the number of people allowed in under this program.3
In addition, there is the J visa program. About two-thirds of all exchange visitors in the United States are working, rather than studying or doing research. While many J visa workers are likely not in competition with teenagers, between 2001 and 2014, 2.28 million exchange worker visas were issued for au pair, camp counselor, intern, summer work/travel, and J-1 trainees. Many of these individuals work in occupations that often employ large numbers of teenagers. There is also the Q-1 visa, sometimes referred to as the "Disney visa". Created in 1990 at the request of the owners of large theme parks, from 1994 to 2017, 39,087 Q-1 visas were issued. Since so many of the workers in the H-2B, J, and Q-1 visa programs are employed in jobs that require relatively little education, often in the summer, the impact on American teenagers is likely to be significant.4 However, the vast majority of the increase in unskilled immigrant labor was due to legal permanent immigration and illegal immigration.
As we will see, there is evidence that immigrants (legal and illegal) are crowding out U.S.-born teenagers in the labor market. Perhaps employers perceive immigrants as better workers and therefore discriminate against U.S.-born teenagers. But the most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the immigrants are overwhelmingly adults over age 20. It may be very difficult for teenagers to compete with mature workers. Perhaps it is due to a willingness by immigrants to work for less or put up with more unpleasant working conditions. It may also be due to immigrants' more effective social networks for finding employment. Whatever the reason, non-work is becoming the norm among teenagers as more and more of them sit idle each summer. In fact, more and more are sitting idle in non-summer months as well. The section below discusses why this development is so worrisome.
Why Teenage Employment Matters
There are two primary reasons to be concerned about the decline in the employment of teenagers. The first and most immediate is that many teenagers or their families need the money that employment provides. There are about 126,000 births a year to U.S.-born teenage mothers.5 While most commentators believe teen pregnancy to be a problem, the fact remains that most of these girls choose to keep their babies and thus must support them in some way. Moreover, one in seven U.S.-born teenagers lives in poverty and one in three lives in a low-income family.6 Even a few thousand dollars a year contributed by a teenager working part-time can significantly improve the well-being of such families. A teenager making $8 an hour working seven hours a week year-round or full-time for nine weeks in the summer can contribute about $3,000 a year to a family's income. This would represent a 10 percent increase for a family with an income of $30,000. Lack of work among teenagers may create real hardship for some low-income families.
The second reason to be concerned about the decline in work among teenagers is the long-term negative consequences for teenagers themselves, and potentially for society. Andrew Sum and his colleagues at Northeastern University have been writing for some time on the difficulty that young and less-educated workers face in the labor market and the problems this is creating. Sum argues that the decline in teenage employment is very worrisome. He observes:
A substantial and growing body of literature on the early labor market experiences of young adults over the past 30 years indicates quite consistently that employment during the high school years generates a diverse number of favorable short-term and long-run positive impacts on their employability, wages, and earnings, especially among those who do not go on to complete any substantive amount of post-secondary education.
Teenagers who have more frequent and intensive employment in the labor market during their junior and senior years of high school tend to have greater participation and less time unemployed during their first year following high school.7
The negative impact of not working in one's teenage years can last a very long time. Lauren Rich has focused on high school graduates who do not pursue higher education, at least not soon after high school. She finds that work experience during high school significantly relates to future work experience after controlling for background variables. The impact of high school work experience on future economic attainment is significant eight years after terminating schooling. Teens employed in high school earn more than teens who did not work in the first year after graduation, with wage differences tending to increase over time. Also, teens who were employed in high school are more likely to be employed and work more hours during the year, with a significant relationship between hours worked in high school and subsequent hours worked and wages earned.
Rich also points out that when youths have problems transitioning from school to the labor market, the result is high early rates of unemployment that negatively affect future employment and lead to weak (or discouraged) labor force attachment. This finding is particularly problematic among disadvantaged and minority youth.8 Other studies show that minority youths holding jobs have higher success rates in the labor market after high school than those who do not work in high school. Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn sampled low-income black youth. They found the subset of teens that did not work is significantly more disadvantaged than that of those who did work and that earlier entry into the workforce leads to a greater chance of completing high school.9
Ruhm found that holding a job in one's senior year of high school is associated with substantially better future economic attainment in the form of earnings, wages, occupational status, and the receipt of fringe benefits. Also, jobs held during the senior year yield substantial and lasting benefits for those who remained in high school through graduation. For example, six to nine years later, seniors who worked 20 hours per week earn approximately 22 percent more annually and obtain 9 percent higher hourly wages and 11 percent greater hourly compensation than their counterparts who did not work. Also, non-college-bound teens who worked 20 hours a week in high school earn about 20 percent more than teens not attending college who did not work.10
There are other studies that support the finding that working while a teenager creates significant long-term benefits. Mortimer et al. followed teenagers until age 29 or 30 and found that teenage work patterns influenced the amount of time it takes to reach what is considered a career job.11 Carr et al. also found a positive effect on labor force outcomes such as labor force participation, labor force status, and income for teens who had worked in high school. Holding background factors constant, working in high school leads to a greater chance of being in the work force as well as higher earnings.12
The biggest benefit of working as a teenager seems to be for those who do not go on to college. While it may seem at times that everyone who graduates high school goes on to college, a very large share of U.S.-born teenagers do not. Of U.S.-born 20-year-olds in 2016, 41 percent had no additional schooling after high school. This includes college or other training. And the overwhelming majority of Americans have not completed a four-year degree. This is true for every age group. In 2016, only 31 percent of U.S.-born 25-year-olds, for example, had completed a bachelor's degree.
Researchers have identified several reasons why working as a teenager creates so many short- and long-term benefits. Holding a job as a teenager seems to instill the habits and values that are helpful in finding or retaining gainful employment later in life. This may include showing up on time, following a supervisor's directions, completing tasks, dealing politely with customers, and working hard. Learning good work habits and values seems to become much less likely without holding a job at a young age. Once a person who has little or no work experience reaches full adulthood, learning these skills seems to become more difficult. Other factors also may explain the benefits of early employment. Teenagers may gain social contacts on one job that provide them the opportunity to find their next job as their career develops. In some cases, teenagers may even acquire specific skills that make them more employable, such as basic auto repair or learning to be a short-order cook. Whatever the reason for the benefits of teenage employment, they are large and long-lasting.
As Paul Conway, a former official at the Department of Labor and Office of Personnel Management, has observed, "Many of those first-time jobs, even before a career begins, are very formative from some very basic standpoints. They teach the basics of how to operate in a workplace — simple things like arriving on time, working on a team, feeling as though you are being compensated for work that you do."13 These skills may sound somewhat intangible but they seem to matter a great deal.
There is another reason to be concerned about the decline in teenage labor force participation and employment: As time goes on and some jobs are done increasingly by immigrants, society in general is likely to become less interested in the wages and working conditions or even safety of such jobs. If some fraction of native-born Americans has worked as construction laborers or landscapers, even if only in their youth, then they will at least have some appreciation for what the jobs entail and some connection to those who do them. While this problem may be difficult to define, it still can be a real problem. A society in which some types of jobs are seen as beneath the station of Americans may not be a very attractive society.
Data and Methods
The data for this study comes primarily from the public-use files of the June, July, and August Current Population Surveys (CPS) collected monthly by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By combining the three summer months we are able to get more robust estimates. This is especially useful when examining smaller sub-populations, such as U.S.-born minorities. Each month, the CPS includes about 130,000 respondents, roughly half of whom are in the labor force. The CPS is the nation's primary source for unemployment data and other labor force statistics. It does not include persons in institutions, such as prisons or nursing homes. The government often reports monthly employment figures that are seasonally adjusted. This report is focused on three months of data and looks at the same season (summer) over more than two decades. Looking at summer provides, in effect, seasonal adjustment. In a prior analysis of teenage employment we found seasonal adjustment made little difference to the findings.14 Not seasonally adjusting the data is computationally simpler and therefore much easier for other researchers to replicate.
Beginning in 1994, the Current Population Survey included a question on whether a person is foreign-born.15 In this report we use the terms "foreign-born" and "immigrant" synonymously. The foreign-born are defined as persons living in the United States who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This includes naturalized American citizens, legal permanent residents (green card holders), illegal immigrants, and people on long-term temporary visas such as students or guestworkers. It does not include those born abroad of American parents or those born in outlying territories of the United States such as Puerto Rico, who are considered U.S.-born or native-born. Prior research indicates that Census Bureau data like the CPS capture the overwhelming majority of both legal and illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics estimates that the undercount in Census Bureau data for immigrants is about 5.4 percent. Most of this undercount is of the illegal immigrant population. The undercount of illegal immigrants specifically is thought by DHS to be 10 percent.16
What's Been Happening to Teen Summer Employment?
A Long-Term Decline in Teen Labor Force Participation. Teenagers can, of course, work any month. But summer has traditionally been a time when many more teenagers look for and find jobs. Those looking for a job or holding a job are considered to be in the labor force. Those neither working nor looking for work are considered not in the labor force. Figure 1 shows the labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers from the summer of 1994 to 2017. That is, it shows the share of teenagers working or looking for work.
Figure 1 shows the dramatic decline in summer labor force participation and employment rates among U.S.-born teens. In 1994, nearly 64 percent of native-born teens were in the summer labor force, last summer it was just 41 percent. In terms of the share with a job, it was once the case that more than half worked in the summer; by 2017 it was only somewhat more than one-third. While there has been some recovery from the low reached after the Great Recession, the rates have not returned to pre-recession levels, repeating the pattern after the 2001 recession when labor force and employment also did not return to pre-recession levels. Further, we also project that while the coming 2018 summer will be slightly better for teenagers, the shares in the labor force or employed will still not come close to what they were in 2007, let alone in 2000 or 1994. In terms of the numbers, we project that about nine million U.S.-born teenagers will not be in the labor force this summer and nearly 10.1 million will not be working.17 Figure 1 also reports the summer employment rate for teenagers — the share holding a job. Like labor force participation, there has been a long-term decline in the employment rate and only a modest recovery from the Great Recession.
Figure 2 reports labor force participation by race. Figure 2 indicates that the decline in summer labor force participation is consistent among U.S.-born white, black, and Hispanic teenagers. White labor force participation rates continue to be the highest because of a higher starting point even though they had the largest decline in labor force participation from 1994 to 2017. White teen labor force participation declined 23 percentage points while Hispanic teens fell 18 percentage points and black teens 14 percentage points.
The decline in labor force participation for all U.S.-born teenagers from 1994 to 2000 is three percentage points. For whites, it is 1.7 percentage points; for blacks it is 2.3 percentage points; and for Hispanics it is 3.6 percentage points. This decline, while not enormous, is difficult to explain because 1994 to 2000 was a period of significant economic expansion, yet a smaller share of teenagers was in the labor force at the end of this period than the beginning. Of course, it was also a period of very high immigration.
Figure 3 reports the summer employment rate for U.S.-born teenagers from 1994 to 2017 by race. The employment rate is the share of U.S.-born teenagers actually holding a job. Like the decline in labor force participation, Figure 3 shows a significant decline in employment rates. In 1994, 53 percent of U.S.-born teenagers held a summer job, but by 2010 it fell to 30 percent and rebounded to 35.3 percent in 2017. For U.S.-born minorities, the employment rate is extremely low. In the summer of 2010, just 16 percent of U.S.-born black teenagers were employed, as were 21 percent of U.S.-born Hispanic teenagers. For whites it was 36 percent. The figures for the summer of 2017 are slightly better, with 26.5 percent of U.S.-born blacks and 28.7 percent of U.S.-born Hispanic teenagers holding a job.
The decline in summer labor force participation and employment rates for U.S.-born teens almost certainly goes back further than 1994. There is evidence that a larger share of U.S.-born teens were in the labor force or employed in the late 1980s. We estimate that in the summer of 1989 the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers was 68 percent and the employment rate was 58 percent.18 This means if we compare the current rates to the level in 1989 the decline is even steeper.
Figure 4 shows the labor force participation rate and employment rate of U.S.-born teenagers for all months January 2000 to December 2017. The peaks are the summer months. The overall downward trend is the same as it is for the summer months shown in Figures 1 and 2. For example, the Christmas season is another period of high seasonal employment. In December 2000, 50.6 percent of U.S.-born teenagers were in the labor force; in 2017 it was just 32.9 percent. Month-over-month comparisons for other years show a very similar decline.
Unemployment Does Not Explain Growth in Teen Non-Work. Though economists examine many measures of employment; the measure familiar to most people is the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the share of people looking for work divided by the number of people with a job plus those looking for work. People who are not working or actively looking for a job are not included in the numerator or denominator of the unemployment rate. To be considered unemployed, one has to be actively looking for a job and have done so within the last four weeks. Figure 5 shows the summer unemployment rate from 1994 to 2017 for U.S.-born teenagers. The unemployment rate for U.S.-born teenagers shows variation based on the economy. Teen unemployment declined as the country came out of the recession in the early 1990s, rose during the recession in 2001, and then went up again during the 2007 recession. Since 2010, teenage unemployment has been falling and is now 14.3 percent, which falls below the rate of 15.4 percent in 2001.
But the recent decline in unemployment does not explain the deterioration in labor force participation. Again, those who are unemployed are considered to be in the labor force. During recessions, labor force participation does generally decline as people give up looking for work. However, it is not typically as closely linked to the business cycle as the unemployment rate. But, as will be recalled from Figures 1 and 2, labor force participation for U.S.-born teenagers declined even as unemployment fell in the 1990s. Since 2010, labor force participation has not made significant gains. We can see this most clearly by looking at Figure 6.
Figure 6 reports the share of all teens (16 to 19) who are employed, unemployed, and out of the labor force. What the figure shows is that it is not the number or share that are unemployed that really changed dramatically, rather it is an enormous growth in the share who are not in the labor force. This is very difficult to explain. Economic growth from 1994 to 2000, 2003 to 2007, and 2010 to the present should have drawn more teens into the labor market. But this is not what happened. Fewer U.S.-born teens were working or looking for work in the summer of 2017 even as the economy has been expanding.
Number of Teenagers Not in Labor Force Grew Dramatically. Unlike Figures 1 through 6, which report percentages, Figure 7 reports numbers. It shows the total number of U.S.-born teenagers — employed, unemployed, and not in the labor force in the summer. The number unemployed has decreased recently. But what is striking about Figure 7 is that the number not in the labor force has grown dramatically and has not fallen at all in recent years. During the economic expansion from 1994 to 2000, the number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased by 900,000. After the recession in 2001 the number increased further, right up to 2010. Even with the recovery after the Great Recession, the number not in the labor force remained the same. It must be remembered that during these time periods business groups claimed that more immigrant workers needed to be allowed into the country because workers were in short supply. This argument is difficult to reconcile with the findings in Figure 7.
Figure 8 shows the growth in the number of minority teenagers not working — unemployed or not in the labor force. Reflecting the large growth in the overall number of U.S.-born Hispanic teenagers, and the significant deterioration in their employment situation, Figure 8 shows an enormous increase in the number of U.S.-born Hispanics not working.19 The number of U.S.-born Hispanic teenagers not working in the summer grew by 113 percent between 2000 and 2017 and by over 200 percent since 1994. Since 2010, the number of U.S.-born Hispanic teenagers not working has exceeded the number of black teenagers not working.
What Accounts for the Decline?
Internships Are Not the Cause of the Decline. The fall-off in labor force participation among U.S.-born teenagers is certainly profound. But the question remains: Why did this happen? One explanation that almost certainly cannot account for the decline is a dramatic increase in unpaid summer internships among high school students or those in the first year or two of college. Unpaid internships are generally undertaken as a means of improving one's resume.20 But according to one estimate there are only about 750,000 unpaid internships offered annually and many of these are not offered in the summer.21 Paid internships would be considered employment by the CPS. The increase in the number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force was 4.4 million from 1994 to 2017. The number of internships seems far too small to account for the huge decline in teenage summer employment.
Unpaid internships should be more common among older teens, as it is something college students generally do, not high school students. If more teens are holding unpaid internships and this is causing the decline in reported employment, then we would expect to see a larger decline among older teens. Figure 9 shows labor force participation for U.S.-born 16- and 17-year-olds separately from 18- and 19-year-olds. It shows that the decline was almost identical for older and younger teens. Figure 10 examines labor force participation for U.S.-born 19-year-olds who report that they have completed some college and for U.S.-born 19-year-olds who report that they have not completed high school. These are two populations on very different career tracks. Those who have attended college are the teenagers most likely to be in unpaid summer internships. High school dropouts on the other hand are very unlikely to have an unpaid internship. Yet the decline looks to be similar for both groups.22 Figures 9 and 10 both indicate that unpaid internships cannot account for the overall decline in labor force participation for U.S.-born teenagers.
Are Children of Affluent Parents Working Less? Internships are much more likely to be associated with affluent college students.23 They are one of the many advantages that come from having parents who can support non-working teenage children. More generally, affluent parents may be one of the reasons fewer teenagers are working. They can provide their children with material possessions, summer vacations, or support during an unpaid internship. If this is the case, the decline in work among teenagers should be more pronounced among teenagers with more educated parents who have higher incomes.
Figure 11 reports the summer labor force participation rate for teenagers based on the education level of the household head. The pattern of decline is almost identical for all levels of parental education, though the children of the least educated parents are less likely to be in the labor force. This does not support the idea that it is the children of more privileged parents who are working less and less.
Examining teen employment by the income of the household in which they live is not really possible with the summer CPS data used in this study. The monthly data do not provide a complete picture of total household income from all sources. However, the CPS collected in March of each year, referred to as the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), does ask questions about income from all sources. It has traditionally been the primary source of statistics on household income in the United States. The ASEC also asks respondents about employment in the calendar year prior to the survey. Using the 1995 and 2017 ASECs, Figure 12 reports the share of U.S.-born teenagers holding a job in the prior years by household income. Although it measures employment for the entire year, not just in the summer, the results in Figure 12 are very similar to the decline in summer employment shown elsewhere in this report. Figure 12 shows that employment has fallen for teenagers from all income groups, with the middle-income groups exhibiting a somewhat steeper decline than the lowest and the highest groups. Figure 12 also shows that teenagers from higher income households were still much more likely to work in 2016, as they were in 1994. These findings are entirely inconsistent with the idea that non-work among teens reflects growing affluence and the indulgence of their parents. The teens least likely to work are from the lowest-income households.
Enrollment in Summer School. Figure 13 reports labor force participation for teenagers who are enrolled in summer school and those not enrolled in summer school. It shows that labor force participation has declined for both groups in a similar fashion. The figure also shows that those U.S.-born teenagers in school are much less likely to be in the summer labor market. At the same time, there has been a significant increase in the share of teenagers who are enrolled in school during the summer. Between 1994 and 2017, the share of U.S.-born teenagers in summer school increased from 26.3 percent in 1994 to 52.1 percent in 2017. One way to estimate the relative importance of the increase in summer enrollment is to assume that the labor force participation rates for enrolled and non-enrolled students decreased as it did between 1994 and 2017, but the share in summer school remained unchanged. Using this approach allows us to estimate how much of the decline in teen summer employment may be due to the increases in the share of teenagers who are in school. This type of analysis shows that the increase in summer enrollment by itself explains 7.1 percentage points of the 22.7 percentage-point decline in the labor force participation of teens between 1994 and 2017.24 This implies that the increases in enrollment accounted for somewhat less than one-third of the overall decline in the labor force participation among all teens over this time period. Or put a different way, more than two-thirds of the overall decline was not due to an increase in enrollment. The rise in enrollment simply cannot explain the dramatic decline in the overall labor force participation of American teenagers.
It is also worth pointing out that the increase in the share of U.S.-born teenagers enrolled in school explains none of the decline when those enrolled and those not enrolled are considered separately. The decline in labor force participation for both groups considered separately is large and is an important trend by itself.
There is simply no question that the decline in teenage employment is very broad. It has fallen for teenagers with well-educated parents and for those whose parents are less educated. It has fallen for teenagers from high-income households and for those from low-income households. As we have also seen, it has fallen in a similar fashion for white, black, and Hispanic teens. Younger teens and older teens have been equally affected. It has fallen for teenage high school dropouts and those who attend college. Because teenagers from all backgrounds are affected, it strongly suggests that the cause of this decline is a change in the U.S. labor market rather than some underlying change in the teenagers themselves.
Immigration's Impact on U.S.-Born Teens
Immigration and the Growth of Non-Work Among Teens. Figure 14 shows the number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force from 1994 to 2017. It also shows the number of immigrants (legal and illegal) who are holding a job in the summer and the number of less-educated immigrants holding a job. Less-educated is defined as having no education beyond high school. We report less-educated, foreign-born workers separately because immigrants in the occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers in the summer often have no education beyond high school.25
Figure 14 shows that the number of immigrants working in the summer more than doubled, from 11.6 million in 1994 to 26.5 million in 2017. At the same time, the number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased by 4.4 million from 1994 to 2017. The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force peaked in 2010 at 9.3 million — 4.6 million higher than 1994. In contrast to teens, many of whom only work in the summer, it is important to note that most immigrants working in the summer are not seasonal workers. To be sure, a significant share of immigrants do work at seasonable jobs often done by teenagers. More importantly, as we will see, immigrants now comprise a very large share of workers in many occupations that employ teenagers.
Comparisons Across Occupations
Teenagers and Immigrants Often Work the Same Jobs. There is no question that as the number of immigrants holding a job has increased, teenage employment has declined. But the question remains: Do U.S.-born teenagers and immigrants do the same kind of work? Or perhaps more accurately, are there a large share of immigrants in the occupations that employ teenagers?
Table 1 shows the 25 occupations that employed the most U.S.-born teens in the summer of 2017. In 2017, 74 percent of all U.S. teens employed in the summer worked in one of these occupations. On average, 22 percent of the workers in these occupations were immigrants (legal and illegal). In short, most U.S.-born teenagers work in occupations where immigrants make up a large share of workers. To be sure, this is not conclusive proof that immigrants are displacing U.S.-born teenagers. But it does mean that the notion that immigrants do jobs that no American teenager would want is simply incorrect. In fact, a very large share of workers who compete with teens for jobs are immigrants.
It is worth noting that U.S.-born teenagers were 7.8 percent of the total working-age population (16 to 65) in 1994, very similar to their 7.4 percent of the working-age population in 2017. Thus it might be expected that they would have roughly maintained their share of workers. But this is not the case. U.S.-born teenagers were 5.6 percent of all summer workers in 1994, 4.3 percent in 2007, and just 3.6 percent in 2017. Although they are about the same share of potential workers, they account for a falling share of actual workers.
Comparisons Across States
One way to examine the relationship between immigration and the employment of teenagers is to look for differences across the country, comparing the relationship between the immigrant share of an area and employment among U.S.-born workers. While this approach makes intuitive sense, there are two fundamental problems with it. First, in the economic literature there is evidence that comparisons across labor markets are problematic when it comes to immigration because the movement of capital and labor from place to place in response to immigration means that the effects of immigration may be diffuse and not confined to only areas of immigrant settlement. There is certainly evidence that this is going on in the United States.26 The comprehensive study of immigration by the National Research Council in 1997 observed, "If native workers or native capital responds to immigration by moving to other labor markets, the impact of immigration on labor market opportunities will be relatively small when spatial correlations are calculated at the city level."27 In other words, the movement of people and capital between areas of the country in response to immigration will tend to equalize differences in wages or employment between high- and low-immigrant areas.
The migration decisions of immigrants themselves might also be influenced by differences in employment opportunities across localities. All other things being equal, immigrants can be expected to settle in high-employment-growth areas. This tendency would mask the effect of immigration at the local level. It could still mean that immigration is negatively impacting natives, but the effect is spread across the country and not confined to higher-immigration localities. If that is correct, cross-city or cross-state comparisons will tend to understate the impact of immigration. Although teenagers normally live with their parents and thus do not move as easily as other workers, the movement of adult workers, capital, and the settlement decisions of immigrants themselves may still create labor market equilibrium across localities.
The second problem with comparing differences across the country is that the public-use files of the Current Population Survey used in this study do not allow for cross-city comparisons. Local labor markets, such as metropolitan areas, are not identified in the data. So even if the potential problems with cross-city comparisons are ignored, such an analysis cannot be done with the available data. States can be compared, but they are a very imperfect approximation of a labor market and their number is limited to just 50. Even with these limitations, comparisons across the country may still provide some insight into the impact of immigration.
State Differences. Table 2 examines differences across states in the share of their labor forces comprised of immigrants and the labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers. The first column in Table 2 reports the share of each state's labor force that was comprised of immigrants in 1994-1995. (We combine two years of data to get more statistically robust estimates for smaller states.28) The second column shows the share of U.S.-born teenagers in the state who were in the labor force in 1994-1995. Columns three and four show the same information for 2016-2017. So, for example, in Nevada immigrants were 12.5 percent of the labor force in 1994-95 and in 2016-2017 they were 25.9 percent — a 13.4 percentage-point increase. At the same time, the share of U.S.-born teenagers who were in the summer labor force in Nevada fell dramatically, from 71.5 percent to 42.7 percent — a 28.7 percentage-point decline. The last two columns in Table 2 simply report the percentage-point change in the immigrant share of the labor force and the change in the share of U.S.-born teenagers who were in the labor force. The states are ranked based on the percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of their labor force from 1994-1995 to 2016-2017. This means that the states at the top of the table should be those in which the impact of immigration is largest over this time period.
The table does show that, in general, states with large immigrant populations in 1994-1995 or 2016-2017 tended to have lower teenage labor force participation. In 1994-1995 in the 10 states where immigrants were the largest share of the labor force, teen labor force participation averaged just 60.2 percent, compared to 67.2 percent in the 10 states where immigrants were the smallest share of the labor force. For 2016-2017, in the top-10 immigrant states, 36.4 percent of U.S.-born teenagers were in the labor force compared to 49.1 percent in the bottom-10 immigrant states. In both time periods, a smaller fraction of U.S.-born teenagers worked or looked for work in areas of very high immigrant settlement.
If we compare the increase 1994-1995 to 2016-2017 we see a similar pattern. Table 2 shows that in the 10 states with the largest increase in the immigrant share of the labor force, teenage summer labor force participation declined 25.7 percentage points on average. In the 10 states with the smallest increase in the immigrant share of the labor force, the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers declined 19.4 percentage points on average. While all the states with large increases in the immigrant share of the labor force saw a significant fall-off in teenage labor force participation, there are a number of states with large employment declines that did not have large increases in their immigrant populations. Given the limitations of state comparisons discussed at the outset of this section, it may not be too surprising that some states are outliers to the overall pattern. Nonetheless, there is a -.46 correlation in the increase in the immigrant share of a state's workforce and the decline in summer labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers.
We can also look at teen employment in metropolitan areas using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey from 2012 to 2016 (five-year file). The survey measures employment during the year, not in the summer months and 2016 is the most recent data. However, it's a much larger survey and this allows for more local-level analysis. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, the correlation between the share of the local work force comprised of immigrants and the share of teenagers who are employed is -.59. Like the state analysis reported above, the correlation is negative and large, suggesting that immigration is playing a role in reducing the employment of native-born teenagers. Of course, other factors almost certainly matter as well.
A more systematic way of examining the possible relationship between immigration and teen labor force participation is the scatter plot shown in Figure 15. The horizontal axis is the percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of the labor force by state and the vertical axis is the percentage-point change in the share of teenagers in the labor force by state. (These are the last two columns in Table 2.) The trend line shows the relationship between the two. Increases in the immigrant share of the labor force are clearly associated with a decline in the share of U.S.-born teenagers in the labor force.
It is possible to compare the immigrant share of each state's labor force and labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers while controlling for several other factors at the same time. We use the following OLS regression models to examine the impact of immigrants on labor force participation among U.S.-born teenagers:
TL = a + b1(PI) + b2(AA) b3(R) + e
CTL = a + b1(CPI) + b2(CAA) + b3(ILF) + b4(CSE) + b5(R) + e
The first regression is a simple cross-sectional comparison where TL is the percentage of U.S.-born teenagers in the labor market in each state at one point in time, PI is the percentage of the state's labor force that is immigrant, AA is the share of the state's U.S.-born teenagers who are black, and R is the region of the country coded as dummy variables with the South as the comparison region. We do this cross-state comparison for both 1994-1995 and 2016-2017. The second regression model examines changes 1994-1995 to 2016-2017 by state. CTL is the change in the percentage of U.S.-born teenagers who are in the labor market, CPI is the change in percentage of each states' labor force that is comprised of immigrants, CAA is the change in percentage of the state's U.S.-born teenage population that is black, ILF is the initial labor force participation rate of teens in 1994-1995, CSE is the change in the share of U.S.-born teenagers enrolled in school, and R is the region of the country coded as dummy variables with the South as the comparison region.
Impact of Immigration on Teen Labor Force Participation. The left side of Table 3 reports the results of the cross-sectional (Model I) regression for both time periods, 1994-1995 and 2016-2017. Model I shows that as the black share of a state's teenage population increases, labor force participation is lower in 1994-1995, but not in 2016-2017. Most of the regional variables in Model I are also statistically significant. In terms of the impact of immigrants, Model I indicates that the larger the immigrant share of the labor force in the state, the lower the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers. This was true both in 1994-1995 and 2016-2017. On average, a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of the labor force reduces the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 5.82 percentage points in 1994-1995 and 5.41 percentage points in 2016-2017. In 1994-1995, immigrants were already 9 percent of the nation's labor force and in 2016-2017 immigrants were 17 percent of the nation's total labor force. In 10 states they were 20 percent of the labor force or more in 2016-2017. Model I indicates that the impact of immigration is likely to be quite large in these states. In fact, a number of states with large immigrant populations also account for a large fraction of the nation's U.S.-born teenagers, including California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey.
Unlike the comparison at one point in time in Model I, Model II on the right side of Table 3 reports the impact of change in the percentage of the labor force comprised of immigrants between 1994-1995 and 2016-2017. This may better test the effects of immigration than Model I, because in Model II each state is being compared to itself over time rather than to other states at the same point in time. The increase in the black share of the teenage population in a state is not statistically significant, but the initial labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers in 1994-1995 is significant. Model II shows that a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a state's labor force between 1994-1995 and 2016-2017 reduced the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 6.4 percentage points. The results in Model II indicate that, even after controlling for several factors, the impact of immigration is substantial. Interestingly, the increase in the share of teens enrolled in school does not have a statistically significant impact on teen labor force participation.29
While studies of adult native-born workers have generally not found large employment effects, a new study of younger teenagers by an economist at the Federal Reserve shows results that parallel our own.30 Our findings also are consistent with a study of 16- to 24-year-olds done in 2006.31 Overall, the results from our OLS regressions are consistent with the few studies that have focused on younger workers and show that the impact from immigration is large and negative.
Why Immigration Impacts Teenagers. By increasing the supply of labor (workers), immigration should reduce wages, all other things being equal. As wages fall, fewer U.S.-born teenagers will offer themselves on the labor market. Economists refer to this as the elasticity of supply. There is research showing that a 10 percent increase in the supply of workers from immigration reduces the weekly wages of U.S.-born workers by 4.5 percent and annual earnings by 8 percent.32 The decline in labor force participation we report from immigration is quite large and implies that the wage impact of immigration is large. Adding to this situation may be the fact that teenage employment is more sensitive to a decline in wages than is the employment of other workers, so the elasticity of supply could be much larger than it is for workers in general. Economists talk of potential workers having a "reservation wage". That is, a wage below which they will not work. Since most teenagers live with their parents and generally do not have to work, it is likely that their reservation wage is different from that of other workers, making their employment much more sensitive to a decline in wages.
It is possible that immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, may be willing to work for less than teenagers. While evidence that immigrants work for significantly less than U.S.-born Americans is mixed, if it does happen it would reduce wages more than might be expected just from their increasing the supply of workers.33 That is, immigrants do the same jobs for less and pull wages down more than they would simply by increasing the supply of workers. If immigrants work for less it may also help them out-compete U.S.-born teenagers for jobs, making them more desirable workers from an employer's perspective.
Social networks are an important way in which to think about the labor market. All workers, especially teenagers, often find work through their family and friends. However, immigrant social networks may be supplanting those that once supplied employers with teenage workers in the summer. Consider the example of an employer who used to rely on friends, family, a local minister, and school guidance counselors to find "reliable kids" each summer to fill his seasonal jobs. But after hiring a few immigrants one year he then comes to rely on their social networks to fill his summer jobs. American teenagers would still take the jobs at the current wages, but now never even hear about them. In the old system the employer proactively recruited workers, but now his recruitment is largely done for him by immigrants. Since this may simplify his hiring practices, it is easy to understand why businesses might find this situation desirable.
Also consider the example of a teenager who would be willing to work in what is now an immigrant-heavy occupation, but feels unwelcome because he does not speak the language of the immigrants who comprise a growing share of the occupation's workers. There is also the question of expectations and values. If fewer and fewer members of one's peer group work, then over time not working each summer seems normal to the teenagers themselves and to their parents. The arrival of immigrants and their increasing use by employers may shape the views of U.S.-born teenagers and their families with regard to work. The American Community Survey discussed above shows enormous variation in the share of teenagers holding a job across American metro areas. Consider the way U.S. teenagers who live in the high immigration city of Los Angles, where just 18 percent are employed, are likely to view work compared to the attitudes of teenagers in lower-immigration Minneapolis, where 43 percent work. In some places, work among teenagers is common and is considered is normal, while in others it is rare and out of the ordinary. The resulting attitudes almost certainly have an impact on whether teenagers work or not.
In our view, the most important reason immigrants (legal and illegal) displace teenagers (U.S.-born or foreign-born), is that immigrants are overwhelmingly much older than 20 years of age. During the summer of 2017 in the 25 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, 96 percent of the immigrants were 20 years of age or older. It may be very difficult for U.S.-born teenagers, especially younger teenagers, to compete with mature adult immigrant workers who have much more work experience.
What's more, teenagers typically have school schedules and extracurricular actives that employers have to work around. With adult immigrants, employers do not have to deal with this problem, which may also make them preferred workers. Like their U.S.-born counterparts, immigrant teenagers have also had great difficulty in the labor market. The labor force participation of immigrant teenagers, already low at 46.4 percent in 1994 declined to 37.1 percent by 2017. This supports the idea that the arrival of so many adult immigrants, who often work at the kinds of jobs traditionally done by teenagers, crowds all teenagers out of the labor force.
The findings of this study indicate that the labor force participation and employment rate of U.S.-born teenagers (16 to 19) in the summer has declined dramatically over the last two decades. While the decline was particularly steep between 2000 and 2010, even in the 1990s during the economic expansion teenage summer labor force participation declined. The teenage summer labor force participation rate — those working or looking for work — declined from almost 64 percent in 1994 to about 41 percent by 2017. The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force during the summer increased by 4.4 million from 1994 to 2017.
The decline in teenage employment may not seem particularly worrisome to some. After all, teenagers do not generally have families to support. However a significant number of teenagers live in or near poverty, and by working they could at least help their families. Perhaps more important, a large and growing body of research indicates that it is as young people that workers develop the skills and habits necessary to function in the labor market. Poor work habits and weak labor force attachment developed as teenagers can follow people throughout life. Those who do not work as teenagers earn less and work less often later in life than those who were employed in their teenage years. This is especially the case for those who do not go on to get more education after high school.
The decline in teenage summer employment has impacted teenagers from every segment of society. The fall-off is similar for white, black, and Hispanic teens. It is similar for older teens and younger teens. The decline has impacted high-school-dropout teens and those who attend college. The decline for teenagers from the highest-income households is as large as the decline for teenagers from the lowest-income households. The deterioration in employment is also similar for those enrolled in summer school and those who are not enrolled. The extremely broad nature of this decline has two important implications: First, it is clear that the decline was not due to teenagers from affluent families no longer working because their parents provide them with everything they need or want. Second, the broad nature of the decline is an indication that changes in the U.S. labor market likely are contributing to this problem rather than some change in the composition or characteristics of the teenagers themselves.
Businesses have repeatedly argued that there are not enough seasonal workers. It is very difficult to reconcile the decline in teen employment with the contention that seasonal workers are not available. If seasonal workers were in short supply, the share of teenagers in the labor force would have increased significantly, not fallen dramatically. Perhaps the needs of seasonal employers have changed in some fundamental way that teenagers can no longer satisfy. But it is hard to see what changes have taken place since the early 1990s or even since 2000 in the nature of seasonal food service, cleaning, retail, construction, and child care jobs that traditionally have employed most teenagers. Moreover, if such changes have occurred it is hard to see why they would be more pronounced in high immigration areas of the country rather than low immigration areas.
There is good evidence that immigration accounts for a significant share of the decline in teenage summer labor force participation. The idea that immigrants and natives do different kinds of jobs is simply incorrect. In occupations that employ the most teenagers, a very large share of workers are immigrants — immigrants and teenagers often do the same kinds of jobs. Comparisons across states in 2017 show that in the 10 states where immigrants are the largest share of workers, just 36 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force compared to 49 percent in the 10 lowest-immigration states. Looking at change over time shows that for every 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a state's labor force between 1994-1995 and 2016-2017, the summer labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers declined 6.4 percentage points.
The decision to allow in large numbers of legal immigrants (temporary and permanent) and to tolerate large-scale illegal immigration, and to turn away from employing U.S.-born teenagers may be seen as desirable by some businesses. However this policy choice may have significant long-term consequences for American workers as they enter adulthood, especially those who do not go on to college. As non-work and idleness become the norm for more Americans after they leave their teenage years, there may be significant negative consequences for society. The potential impact of continued large-scale immigration on teenagers is something that should be considered when formulating immigration policy in the future.
1 The Chamber of Commerce's position on immigration can be found in "Immigration and Labor: Policy Positions and Activities". The policy positions of EWIC can be found at its website.
2 Between 1994 and 2016, an average of 966,000 green cards were issued annually. See Table 1 in "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2016". For estimates of the illegal immigrant population going back to 1980, see Figure 2 in Jeffrey S. Passel, "The Size and Characteristics of the Unauthorized Migrant Population in the U.S.", Pew Hispanic Center, March 7, 2006.
3 Responding to pressure from employer groups, in 2005 Congress passed a temporary provision to allow returning H-2B workers to be exempt from the cap from March 2005 to September 2007, allowing the program to significantly exceed the cap originally placed on it. Also in 2017 and 2018 Congress authorized, and DHS approved, numerical increases in the program.
4 The number of H-2B and Q visas is reported in the State Department's annual "Report of the Visa Office". These numbers represent the number of visas issued by consular officers overseas; it is possible that some of the individuals do not ever arrive or use the visa, but this number is estimated to be small. The source for the different categories of J-1 visas is the annual reports and annual program inventories of the Interagency Working Group on U.S. Government Sponsored International Exchanges and Training. These numbers are derived from the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The SEVIS Office provides the Working Group with a count of all students and exchange visitors who participated in an exchange as of September 30 each year.
5 Figures are from the 2016 public-use file of the American Community Survey, which asks all women over age 15 if they have given birth in the last year. We confine our analysis to U.S.-born women ages 16 to 19.
6 Figures are based on the 2017 Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), which is the primary source for poverty statistics. Low income is considered less than 200 percent of the poverty threshold.
7 Andrew Sum, et al., "The Projected Summer 2007 Job Outlook for the Nation's Teens and the Implications of Summer Employment for Jobs for America's Graduates' Programs", paper commissioned by the National Center on Education and the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, January 2006, p. 20. For a more extensive review of many of the problems created by young people not working, see Andrew Sum, et al., "Confronting the Youth Demographic Challenge: The Labor Market Prospects of At Risk Youth", Sar Levitan Center for Social Policy Studies, 2000.
8 Lauren M. Rich, "The Long-Run Impact of Teenage Work Experience: A Reexamination", The Review of Black Political Economy, 25(2), 11-36, 1996.
9 Tama Leventhal, Julia A. Graber, Jeanne Brooks‐Gunn, "Adolescent Transitions to Young Adulthood: Antecedents, Correlates, and Consequences of Adolescent Employment", Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11(3), 297-323, 2001.
10 Christopher J. Ruhm, "Is High School Employment Consumption or Investment?" , Journal of Labor Economics, 15(4), 735-776, 1997. Christopher J. Ruhm, "The Extent and Consequences of High School Employment", Journal of Labor Research, 16(3), 293-303, 1995.
11 J.T. Mortimer, M. Vuolo, J. Staff, S. Wakefield, and W. Xie, "Tracing the Timing of 'Career' Acquisition in a Contemporary Youth Cohort", Work and Occupations, 35(1), 44-84, 2008.
12 Rhoda V. Carr, James D. Wright and Charles J. Brody, "Effects of High School Work Experience a Decade Later: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey", Sociology of Education, 69(1), 66-81, 1996.
13 Danielle Kurtzleben, "High Teen Unemployment Could Hurt Future Job Growth: Teenagers without jobs may be missing out on job skills, future wages", USNews & World Report, March 15, 2012.
14 Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler, "A Drought of Summer Jobs: Immigration and the Long-Term Decline in Employment Among U.S.-Born Teenagers", Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, May 10, 2010.
15 The Census Bureau data were re-weighted after the 2000 census revealed that the weights being used in the 1990s were slightly off. New weights were issued in 2002, 2001, and 2000. This means that there is some break in the continuity of the data between 1999 and 2000 if the new weights are used. In this report we use the revised weights for 2000 to 2002. (There are no revised weights for 1994 to 1999.) The impact on the size of the U.S.-born teenage population using the original weights vs. the revised weights is very small and makes no meaningful difference in this analysis.
16 See Table 2 in Bryan Baker, "Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: January 2014", Department of Homeland Security, July 2017. DHS estimates use the American Community Survey, which like the Current Population Survey used in this report, is collected by the Census Bureau. The data in both cases is weighted in a similar fashion, so the results are similar.
17 Our projected teen labor force participation and employment rates are based on the pattern of teenage employment in the first four months of each year 2010 to 2017. We assume that labor force participation and employment rates will follow the same pattern in 2018 as in the prior eight years.
18 The 1989 CPS's for June, July, and August show a labor force participation rate of 68.1 percent and an employment rate of 58.4 percent for all (immigrant and native) non-Hispanic teenagers. As already discussed, immigrant and native-born Americans cannot be distinguished in the CPS prior to 1994. However, the 1990 census, which does distinguish immigrants and natives, shows that only 3.8 percent of all non-Hispanic teenagers in the country were immigrants. Although we cannot separate out immigrants and U.S.-born teenagers from the 1989 data, we are confident that the figures reported above come very close to the actual rates for U.S.-born teenagers in 1989.
19 Starting in 2003, respondents to the CPS were allowed to choose more than one race. This was done so that the CPS would match the new race question on the 2000 Census. This change should not significantly impact the percentages for white and black teens reported in Figures 1 through 5, but it could impact the totals slightly. Hispanics are unaffected by the change because being Hispanic is determined by a different question that has not changed substantially over this time period.
20 There is no way to directly measure internships in the Census Bureau data used here. If the internship is paid then the teen will show up as employed. If it is unpaid, then the teenager will show up as either unemployed, if they are also looking for paid work, or out of the labor force if they are not looking for paid work.
21 Paul Davidson, "Fewer unpaid internships to be offered", USA TODAY, March 7, 2012.
22 Because Figure 10 examines only 19-year-olds the sample is much smaller, resulting in more sampling variability. This causes the numbers to change more than in the other figures. If we compare the decline from 1994 to 2017, we find a decline of 12 percentage points for 19-year-old dropouts and 21 percentage points for 19-year-olds with some college. This might support the idea that unpaid internships account for some of the decline. But if we compare 1995 to 2017 we find that labor force participation fell 17 percentage points for dropouts, while declining 22 percentage points for those with some college. The decline is also similar from 2000 to 2017: 16 percent for dropouts and 17 percent for those with some college. However, comparing 2010 to 2017 shows a larger decline for dropouts: 5 percent compared to 2 percent for teens with some college. Thus, sampling variability due to smaller sample size seems to explain the results for 1994 to 2017. Overall, Figure 10 shows that the decline in labor force participation is very similar for U.S.-born 19-year-old high school dropouts and 19-year-olds who have attended college.
23 See for example, Anthony Paletta, "The Internship Racket", Inside Higher Education, 2008. See also, Jessica Curiale, "America's New Glass Ceiling: Unpaid Internships, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Urgent Need for Change", Hastings Law Journal, last revised April 2010. Also a forum held by the Economic Policy Institute in March 2010, "Unpaid and Unfair: Financing Internships for Low-income Students", made the case that low-income students often cannot afford to take unpaid internships and that they are in effect only for the children of affluent parents.
24 To calculate the impact of rising summer school enrollment we take weighted averages in 1994 and 2017 of labor force participation. In 1994, 50.5 percent of the 26.3 percent of those enrolled were in the labor force and 68.7 percent of the 73.7 percent not enrolled were in the labor force. If we use the shares in the labor force from Figure 13, but assume that the share in school was not the actual 52.1 percent it actually was in 2017, and instead assume it was the same as in 1994 (26.3 percent) then the overall share (enrolled and not enrolled) in the labor force would have been 48.3 percent in 2017. To be sure this is higher than the overall rate in 2017 of 42.1 percent shown in Figure 1. But it is still dramatically lower than the 63.9 percent in 1994. This means that about 31 percent of the decline in the overall summer labor force participation rate for U.S.-born teens between 1994 and 2017 could be attributed to the rise in summer enrollment.
25 Roughly two-thirds of immigrants employed in the 10 occupations employing the most teenagers had no more than a high school education in both 1994 and 2007. In 2017 this number was 60 percent.
26 For example, immigrants may settle in what has traditionally been a high-employment-growth city like Los Angles. This in turn may reduce the number of native-born Americans moving to that city from low-employment-growth areas like Pittsburgh. By staying put, Pittsburgh workers increase the supply of labor above what it would otherwise have been had immigrants not arrived in Los Angles. Moreover, if immigration reduces wages in L.A., native-born workers may leave that city and increase the supply of workers in another community. In this way the arrival of immigrants in one city may impact the labor market of many cities, even those with few immigrants. The argument that immigration may impact the internal migration patterns of natives is most associated with the work of William Frey. See William H. Frey, "Immigration and Internal Migration 'Flight' from U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Toward a New Demographic Balkanisation", Urban Studies, 32 (4-5), 1995, pp. 733-757; and William H. Frey, "Immigration and Domestic Migration in U.S. Metro Areas: 2000 and 1990 Census Findings by Education and Race", Research Report 05-572, Population Studies Center, 2005.
27 James P. Smith and Barry Edmonston, eds. The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press 1997, p. 231.
28 Since figures for each year are for the three summer months, our two-year estimates are actually based on six months of data, making for robust estimates.
29 Since we have only 50 states that can be compared, we are limited in the number of variables that can be included in the models. Thus, other factors that may impact teenage labor force participation may not be included in the model. But both models indicate a significant impact from immigration on the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teens.
30 See Christopher L. Smith, "The Impact of Low-Skilled Immigration on the Youth Labor Market", Finance and Economics Discussion Series, Divisions of Research & Statistics and Monetary Affairs, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C., March 2010.
31 See Andrew Sum, et al., "The Impact of New Immigrants on Young Native-Born Workers, 2000-2005", Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, September 2006.
32 See George J. Borjas, "The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market", The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2003. For a less technical version of the paper, see George J. Borjas, "Increasing the Supply of Labor Through Immigration: Measuring the Impact on Native-Born Workers", Center for Immigration Studies Backgrounder, April 2004.
33 Sherrie A. Kossoudji and Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, "Coming Out of the Shadows: Learning about Legal Status and Wages From the Legalized Population", Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 20, No. 3, July 2002: 598-628. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz argues that the difference may be larger; see, "Undocumented Workers in the Labor Market: An Analysis of the Earnings of Legal and Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.", Journal of Population Economics, February 1999.