Sink or Swim in the Labor Pool: Determinants and Consequences of Teenage Employment

Voloshin, Irina. 2012. "Sink or Swim in the Labor Pool: Determinants and Consequences of Teenage Employment." PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Washington.
Charles Hirschman (Chair), Gunnar Almgren (GSR), Lowell Hargens, Jake Rosenfeld, Stewart Tolnay.

A majority of all high school students engage in the labor force by the time they complete their senior year. Few studies have investigated the long-term educational trajectories of student workers after high school graduation. Even fewer research studies have concerned themselves with ascriptive stratification patterns of the teenage labor market. Upon achieving a greater understanding of teenage employment stratification, associations between differential educational outcomes and employment histories of teens and adolescents can be more carefully disentangled. Empirical analyses were performed utilizing a uniquely rich data source from the University of Washington Beyond High School project, which captures ascriptive and achieved characteristics as well as both the educational and workforce experiences of high school youth from 2000 to 2005. This data source allowed a more systematic approach to operationalizing differences in the quality of jobs available to students. Employment status, work intensity, as well as job quality were used as measures of the workforce experience of youths. Overall, evidence of stratification along lines of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status is unambiguous, although somewhat complex. First, teens who are members of racial/ethnic minorities, particularly, Hispanics and Blacks, are more likely to not work at all, or to work many hours per week than to work fewer hours. Second, there are significant class differences in the chances of having a high intensity job (but not the chances of being employed), with less privileged students more likely to work many hours a week than their more privileged counterparts. I find that jobs in semi-professional or technical settings as well as moderate hours of work are positively associated with the chances of college enrollment. While this association holds true for entry into any college, its strength (in terms of contribution to the explanatory strength of the model) is greatest when looking at enrollment in a four year educational institution. Moderate work hours were also found to increase the chances of completing a four-year degree within five years of high school graduation. These findings may have important policy implications aimed at mitigating social background disadvantage in access jobs found to be positively associated with educational outcomes.

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