When I was a kid I picked apples and cherries for cash and bought some of the fruit to take home. No insurance or workers comp. No taxes (paid in cash). I could make as much money as I wanted. The harder I worked, the more I made. What a concept? I was outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. I was getting healthy exercise. I rode my bike to get there, without a helmet.
I also stacked bales of hay & straw for cash. I collected bottles & cans from the ditches for the deposit refund. I had a 60 daily and 100 Sunday newspaper route.
I washed dishes at 15 and bussed tables at 16.
Work is there for those who want it, or at least it used to be, before government interfered.
The summer of 2009 was the worst summer ever experienced by U.S.-born teenagers (16-19) since citizenship data was first collected in 1994. Just 45 percent were in the labor force, which means they worked or were looking for work. Only one-third actually held a job.
Even before the current recession, the summer labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers was deteriorating. Between the summers of 1994 and 2000, a period of significant economic expansion, the labor force participation of U.S.-born teens actually declined from 64 percent to 61 percent.
After 2000, the summer labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined from 61 percent to 48 percent by 2007. Thus even before the current recession fewer teens were in the labor force.
Teen unemployment the share looking for a job has also tended to rise somewhat over time. But the big decline has been in the share of teenagers who are looking for work.
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. In the summer of 2009 it stood at 8.8 million.
The severity of the decline is similar for U.S.-born black, Hispanic, and white teens. Between 1994 and 2007 the summer labor force participation of black teens declined from 50 to 35 percent; for Hispanic teens from 52 to 37 percent; and for whites it declined 69 to 55 percent.
The fall-off is also similar for U.S.-born teenagers from both high- and low-income households.
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. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the decline in labor force participation would have occurred regardless of the increase in enrollment. Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2007, in the 10 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, one in five workers was an immigrant.
Between 1994 and 2007, in occupations where teenage employment declined the most, immigrants made significant job gains.
Comparisons across states in 2007 show that in the 10 states where immigrants are the largest share of workers, just 45 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force, compared to 58 percent in the 10 states where immigrants are the smallest share of workers.
Looking at change over time shows that in the 10 states where immigrants increased the most as a share of workers, labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined 17 percentage points. In the 10 states where immigrants increased the least, teen labor force participation declined 9 percent.
We also find that, on average, a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a states work force from 1994 to 2007 reduced the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 7.9 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 work at the kinds of jobs traditionally done by teenagers, crowds all teenagers out of the labor force, both U.S.-born and foreign-born.