Labor Market Problems of Teenagers Result Largely From Doing Poorly in School

PAD-82-06: Published: Mar 29, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1982.

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GAO was requested to investigate the extent and severity of the teenage unemployment problem, including an analysis of the: (1) significance of the high rate of teenage unemployment; (2) size and characteristics of the group of teenagers in need of help; (3) causes of teenage unemployment and labor force participation; (4) racial differences in teenage unemployment and labor force participation; (5) effects of teenage unemployment on future labor-market opportunities and criminal behavior; and (6) mix of services needed to combat these problems.

GAO found that the high measured rate of teenage unemployment does not accurately indicate either the degree or the type of labor-market problems facing teenagers. Based upon an analysis of changes in the employment of teenagers, GAO concluded that the recent Federal emphasis on subsidized jobs should be shifted toward finding services that will improve scholastic achievement to make teenagers more qualified for jobs. The analysis of the causes of teenage unemployment showed that family income and living in a house that receives aid for families with dependent children are closely tied to unemployment and nonparticipation among all teenagers. GAO found that racial differences in teenage unemployment outside the South have been significant, at least since 1940. Teenage unemployment does not seem to have an adverse effect on future labor market opportunities, even for out-of-school teenagers. GAO concluded that research and development activities are needed in the following areas: (1) developing databases that contain detailed historical information on educational achievement and labor force information; (2) analyzing the types of jobs performed by teenagers and young adults to assess the quality of the work experience gained; and (3) developing special surveys of teenagers that analyze the connection between labor-market experience and criminal behavior.

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