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Volume 14, Number 4
July/August 1998

Working Teenagers

Do After-School Jobs Hurt?


Two decades ago, politicians and educators extolled the virtues of part-time jobs for high school students as a way to foster independence, responsibility, and good work habits. Government panels like the 1980 National Commission on Youth also praised part-time work, suggesting it was "the single most important factor" in the transition from youth to adulthood.

Only a year before the Commission's report was published, however, the first of several warnings appeared, challenging the prevailing view that high school students were benefiting from their after-school jobs. That warning came from Temple University researcher Laurence Steinberg, who, in a 1979 report, concluded that after-school work had a detrimental effect on school achievement.

While Steinberg's work--among the most frequently cited in the field--has generally withstood the test of time, he and other researchers are beginning to focus on the 30 percent or more of students who work more than 20 hours during the school week. Growing evidence suggests that teenagers who work more than their peers after school may be more likely to have been disengaged from school before they took a job. Since all jobs are not equal, however, the search is on to define the most optimal work experience for teens.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

E. Bedenbaugh. "Competing for Time: School and Teenage Employment." NASSP 76, no. 549 (January 1993): 74-81.

J. Bachman and J. Schulenberg. "How Part-Time Work Intensity Relates to Drug Use, Problem Behavior, Time Use, and Satisfaction Among High School Seniors: Are These Consequences or Merely Correlates?" Developmental Psychology 29, no. 2 (March 1993): 220-235.

R. McNeal. "Are Students Being Pulled Out of High School? The Effect of Adolescent Employment on Dropping Out." Sociology of Education 70, no. 3 (1996): 206-221.

G. Ruscoe. "Students Who Work." Adolescence 31, no. 123 (Fall 1996): 625-633.

L. Steinberg. Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

L. Steinberg. "Negative Impact of Part-Time Work on Adolescent Adjustment: Evidence from a Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology 29, no. 2 (March 1993): 171-180.

L. Steinberg and S. Dornbusch. "Negative Correlates of Part-Time Employment during Adolescence: Replication and Elaboration." Developmental Psychology 27, no. 2 (March 1991): 304-313.

D. Stern. "What Difference Does it Make if School and Work are Connected? Evidence on Cooperative Education in the U.S." Economics of Education Review 16, no. 3 (June 1997): 213-229.

D. Stern. "The Continuing Promise of Work-Based Learning." Centerfocus, no. 18 (November 1997).