dear data dog: How many kids get summer jobs?

By Published on .

I assume you mean those kids who don't spend summer vacation preparing for their IPOs.

Every year the youth labor force gets a huge April to July boost; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a jump of 3.3 million (those between 16 and 24 years), but that includes graduates looking for full-time jobs (

More to the point, the BLS' 1997 Longitudinal Study of Youth found that just 6.4 percent of those aged 15 to 16 worked at summer jobs. But don't get any ideas about lazy youngsters: 28.2 percent worked during both the summer months and the school year, while 8 percent worked only during the school year. (The BLS defines "summer" as the block of time from June 2 through August 31.) The BLS also found that the percentage of kids employed overall takes a big jump between age 14 and 15, from 57 to 64 percent, accompanied by a move away from "freelance" jobs (babysitting, lawn mowing, playground protection rackets) to "employee" jobs ("You want fries with that?"). Twenty-four percent held employee jobs at age 14, compared to 38 percent the following year.

More recently (and more broadly, dealing with students from 16 to 22 years of age), the American Savings Education Council's 1999 Youth and Money Survey ( learned that 41 percent of respondents worked 35 hours or more per week during the previous summer, 22 percent worked between 20 and 35 hours, 18 percent worked 5 to 20 hours, and 13 percent worked less than 5 hours. A mere 6 percent didn't work at all, though 56 percent of these summer slackers did receive regular allowance from their parents. Seventy-two percent of those claiming little or no summer income still had to do some sort of work at home to earn that allowance.

Older students were more likely to work full-time during the summer: whereas 26 percent of those aged 16 and 17 had such jobs, 65 percent of students aged 20 to 22 and 51 percent of those 18 to 19 worked full time. Overall, a greater percentage of males worked full-time than females (44 percent to 38 percent).

A 1999 Junior Achievement survey of 250 teen-age and college students concluded that females are more likely to hold summer jobs than are males (79 percent versus 66 percent), and more likely to earn less - a result, JA says, of the types of work they undertake ( Females more often turn to child care and restaurant work, males to lawn jobs and "light construction."

And just what are they doing with the money they make? The ASEC survey, soon to be made into the movie "I Know What You Made Last Summer," found that 49 percent of those polled saved some of their income no matter how much they made: 41 percent saved sometimes; 7 percent claimed to save money only until they got a chance to spend it (which might argue for check-cashing services at malls and music venues); while 3 percent blew every cent they made. And while 54 percent thought saving money on a regular basis was very important, only 23 percent made a budget and stuck to it; 30 percent made a budget but ignored it at times, and 46 percent didn't bother budgeting at all.

The top two reasons kids gave for salting money away were education (34 percent) and cars or car-related expenses (30 percent). Female students are more likely to save for education than male students, by 40 percent versus 29 percent. High school students are more likely to save for cars than college students (40 percent versus 18 percent), probably a reflection both of the high cost of college education and the continuing importance of wheels to teen-agers. Thirty-one percent of students were responsible for their school-related expenses, far fewer than the 82 percent who had to pay for their own entertainment. Some 58 percent paid for their own clothes, and 50 percent handled their own car expenses.

The Junior Achievement survey found that 81 percent of those polled were saving money for cars, CDs, and clothes. Less than one in five were saving money for education - not surprising, given that summer income ($1,295 for females, $1,894 for males) goes a lot farther at the Gap than the bursar's office.

Most Popular