Fewer Teens Have Summer Jobs — Yet They’re Also Busier Than Ever

Teens in America aren’t working like they used to — but there’s a reason for that.

Teens (16- to 19-year-olds) are no longer participating in the age-old tradition of busting their butts for minimum wage in a greasy burger shack all summer long, according to an article recently published by Bloomberg.

Instead, the article states that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Labor Force Participation Rate for 16- to 19-year-olds has dropped from about 55% in the year 1977 to a much lower 35% in 2017. By 2024, that number is expected to drop below 27%.

But before you go on a fist-shaking, spittle-flying, “young-people-these-days” rant, let’s take a look at why teens are less interested in working during the summer months.

Kids These Days!

The article proposes a few theories as to why the teen work force participation is dropping so steadily:

  • Teens are being crowded out of the workforce by older Americans who are now working past age 65 at the highest rates in more than 50 years
  • Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs
  • Parents are pushing teens to volunteer and participate in extracurriculars to impress colleges
  • College-bound teens may not be interested in working at all because money simply doesn’t stretch as far as it used to (I imagine it can feel fruitless to work all summer just to change your final student loan bill from $50,000 to $47,100)

All valid reasons, and all probably play a small part in the bigger issue, but the article offered one final theory.

Apparently, teens aren’t working these days because they’re doing something else instead. (Graffitiing overpasses? Hanging out in malls with their parents’ credit cards? Laying in bed all day playing around on those *gasp* blasted smartphones?!)

No, no and no.

Teens are spending their summers studying and going to school.

High school-aged teens are taking more (and tougher) classes than teens in the 1980s did, and college-aged teens are doing multiple internships (the new standards of competition say they should complete upwards of three) and are often required to take summer courses in order to graduate.  

Flexible Summer Jobs for Students

But, as Bloomberg points out, a summer job is more than just a way to make a buck. It’s also a way to expand a teenager’s world view and teach them the basics of money management and how to function in a work environment.

The issue, then, is finding a job that works with a busy student’s schedule (and one that pays more than minimum wage couldn’t hurt either, what with the laughably painful cost of college these days).

Luckily, we here at The Penny Hoarder care quite a bit about two things: jobs that don’t make you want to tear your hair out and making money.

If you’re looking for a flexible summer job, start with this list of 100 summer jobs for teens. With everything from plant sitting to performing at birthday parties, there’s probably a job or two here that you could fit in around your hectic class schedule.

If you’re spending the summer on campus, try one of these 13 online jobs for college students that you can do from the comfort of your dorm room (or, sign up to become a Campus Sherpa)!

If you’re looking for a side hustle that you can use to earn extra cash on your own time, check out these 25 simple ways to make money in collegewithout dropping any classes.

And if you still need a little help with tuition so that you don’t end up drowning in student loan debt, here are 100 awesome scholarships that can help you pay for college.

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.