Most Teens Will Not Be In The Labor Force This Summer

Washington, D.C., July 10, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Washington, D.C. (July 10, 2018) –  A new Center for Immigration Studies report reveals that the proportion of teenagers in the U.S summer labor force has been declining for two decades while the number of legal and illegal immigrants holding a job has more than doubled. As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business associations lobby Congress for increases in legal immigration, seasonal workers in particular, the study finds that the decline in summer employment has impacted teenagers from every segment of society. 

Dr. Steven Camarota, the Center’s director of research, writes, “The evidence indicates that immigration has likely accounted for a significant share of the decline in teen labor force participation. The decline in teen work is worrisome because research shows that those who do not hold jobs as teenagers often fail to develop the work habits necessary to function in the labor market, creating significant negative consequences for them later in life.” 


View the full study at:

Among the findings: 

•   In the summer of 2017, 41 percent of U.S.-born teenagers were in the labor force and just 35 percent held a job. In 2018, we project only a slight improvement to 42 percent in the labor force and 36 percent actually working — both levels well below what they used to be. 

•   The current low rate of teen employment compares to 48 percent in the labor force in the summer of 2007 before the Great Recession, 61 percent in 2000, and 64 percent in 1994. 

•   The official teen unemployment rate — those actively looking for a job — has fallen considerably. However, the unemployment rate obscures the low labor force participation rate for those who are out of the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) and are not accounted for in the unemployment rate.  

•   The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased from 4.7 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 2007. It peaked in 2010 at 9.3 million. In the summer of 2017, 9.1 million U.S.-born teenagers were not in the labor force. In 2018 we project it will fall only slightly to nine million. 

•   The decline in summer teen employment is similar for U.S.-born blacks, Hispanics, and whites. Between 1994 and 2017, the summer labor force participation rate for black teens declined from 50 percent to 36 percent; for Hispanic teens from 52 percent to 34 percent; and for white teens from 69 percent to 45 percent. 

•   Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2017, in the 25 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, more than one in five workers was an immigrant. 

•   Comparisons across states in 2017 show that in the 10 states with the largest shares of immigrant workers, just 36 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force. In contrast, in the 10 states with the smallest shares of immigrant workers, 49 percent of teens are in the labor force. 

•   Looking at change over time shows that in the 10 states where immigrants increased the most as a share of workers since 1994, labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined by 26 percentage points. In the 10 states where immigrants increased the least, teen labor force participation declined 19 percentage points.

•   The most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the vast majority of immigrants are fully developed adults — relatively few people migrate before age 20. This gives immigrants a significant advantage over U.S.-born teenagers who typically have much less work experience.  

•   The labor force participation of immigrant teenagers has also declined, though it was low even in the early 1990s. This, along with the similar decline for U.S.-born teens from all racial and income backgrounds, supports the idea that the arrival of so many adult immigrants, who often take jobs traditionally done by teenagers, crowds all teenagers out of the labor force, both U.S.-born and foreign-born. 


Marguerite Telford, Director of Communications
Center for Immigration Studies

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