Just Where's the Cure for the Summer Time Blues?

Apr 26, 2011

 By Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt

More than 50 years ago, Eddie Cochran captured the frustration of American teenagers with his hit single Ain't No Cure for the Summer Time Blues.  He sang about a young man lamenting that he has to work all summer long, doesn't get time to spend with his girlfriend, and can't borrow the family car if he doesn't have money. Today's teens would sing a much different and far worse song. They can't get jobs in the first place.

For the last four summers, America's teens have been employed in record low numbers, and this summer is gearing up to be no different. The number of teens working has declined precipitously over the last decade, falling from 45 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010, a major employment crisis for youth.

This summer, the Center for Labor Market Studies anticipates that only one in four teens between 16 and 19 will have employment. This means about 12 million of the nation's young people will be idle. Without work, many of these teens will waste three months being non-productive or, worse, involved in dangerous or criminal activities.

Low-income youth and minority youth of all income levels are far less likely to obtain employment than whites. In June 2010, black teens of all socioeconomic levels had an employment rate of only 15.2 percent, making them 53 percent less likely to work than white teens. Low-income black teens fared far worse, with only 9 percent of them employed. Although Hispanic youth were the most likely minority group to work, they still lagged behind whites. Black male teenagers living in urban communities are the least likely to obtain summer employment. They are also the ones most at risk for engaging in perilous activities due to lack of connection to positive summer opportunities. The teens who need employment and stand to gain the most from the experience are the least likely to get it.

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