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Long-term career success

Gaining early work experience may give students a leg up in the job market once they reach adulthood. Working teens may figure out earlier than their nonworking peers which career would best match their interests and abilities. And they may make professional contacts they can draw on later in life. The experience that teens acquire on the job-such as the ability to convey a sense of professionalism through dress and speech-may make them more attractive to future employers.

But even without such direct benefits, holding a job may enhance long-term economic success. Notes Elaine Augot, who spent eleven years teaching English as a Second Language to high school students in Massachusetts, "Having a job can be positive if it gives kids a vision of what life is going to be like afterward. If you don't like what you are doing because you are working in a boring job, then you may decide that education is the way to go."

A substantial body of research conducted over the last twenty years tends to corroborate this insight. Paid work during high school is generally associated with a greater chance of finding a job after graduation, longer spells of employment, and higher income. Most studies have focused on the first year or two after high school graduation, although a few have documented positive impacts on wages and occupational status that persist up to a decade after graduation.

But a more recent study casts some doubt on the conventional interpretation of these findings. UCLA Professor of Economics V. Joseph Hotz and coauthors tried to control for the possibility that a teen's decision about whether to work while in school is itself affected by other unobserved characteristics, such as academic ability or family background, that will also influence their wages later in life. After controlling for such factors, they found that the positive effects of high school employment on adult wages diminished markedly and were no longer statistically significant. In short, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that kids who work in high school are more successful in their adult careers. But it may be premature to conclude that the beneficial effect of the work itself is the driving mechanism.

Date: 2014-12-29; view: 964

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