My colleagues at the Center for Immigration Studies have published an extensive look at the effects of immigration on the summer employment of teenagers. Long before the current recession, the share of U.S.-born teenagers in the summer labor market had been declining, from 64 percent in 1994 to 48 percent in 2007 (and 45 percent last summer). Immigration is only one cause, but a significant one; in the top ten immigration states, only 45 percent of teens were in the summer labor force in 2007, as opposed to 58 percent in the bottom ten immigration states. What’s more, a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a state’s work force from 1994 to 2007 reduced the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 7.9 percentage points.
The reasons are obvious — immigrants do the jobs teenagers used to do, like cutting grass, flipping burgers, etc., and since they’re almost all adults, employers prefer them to inexperienced teenagers. But the long-term prospects for the country are potentially dire. As the authors write:
Holding a job as a teenager seems to instill the habits and values that are helpful in finding or retaining gainful employment later in life. This may include showing up on time, following a supervisor’s directions, completing tasks, dealing politely with customers, and working hard. Learning good work habits and values seems to become much less likely without holding a job at a young age. Once a person who has little or no work experience reaches full adulthood, learning these skills seems to become more difficult.
All this is especially true for less-educated and minority teenagers.
But don’t worry, it’ll all work out. Or so they tell us.