Youth Employment and Behavior Problems: The Overprotected Adolescent?

Emily Rauscher, New York University

Using the PSID Child Development Supplement, we examine the relationship between youth employment and behavior problems. We depict national employment patterns of American youth aged 12-18 in 2003. Significant racial differences in employment rates and job characteristics exist and, contrary to previous research using local samples, youth employment is mainly determined by job availability not individual characteristics. Conflicting hypotheses about various mediating mechanisms are investigated, including parental control, peer influence, neighborhood quality, job characteristics, educational expectations, and emotional distress. We find that early work is associated with fewer behavior problems, but only in high quality jobs at moderate hours. Employment is more strongly associated with fewer behavior problems for black, male than for white, female youth. This relationship is mediated by positive peer influence, which is higher among working youth. Findings support social and human capital theories and, more broadly, the social network/role modeling explanation for adolescent behavior.

  See paper

Presented in Poster Session 2