Heres a trend that may not bode well for the future of our country: According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 40 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds have summer jobs down from 75 percent of teens a generation ago.
As it goes, according to the NerdWallet website, teen summer employment has been declining for decades.
One reason is that jobs typically tailored for teens are either shrinking or being taken by older folks. Another is that more teens are attending summer school, participating in extracurricular activities and volunteering.
But a third reason is the most troubling: Fewer teens are willing to flip burgers or work manual labor during their vacation. Which is a shame, because work is good for teens. It exposes them to how industry works. It teaches them the value of a dollar. It gives them the dignity of exchanging their labor for money that they can use to support their education or maybe buy their first junker car.
But most of all, teens who dont work are missing out on growth experiences.
I got my very first job in the summer before I became an eighth-grader. I persuaded a neighbor to hire me to cut her lawn for five bucks. She had an electric mower with a long extension cord which I promptly ran over and destroyed. I got canned before I finished the job.
The next few summers, I worked at a driving range. I had to wake up at 5 a.m., ride my bike 2 miles up a hill, then pick up a couple of acres of golf balls with an aluminum picker. Sometimes, I worked the evening shift. I wore a metal cage as I worked as dozens of people tried to hit me with golf balls. I was paid $1.25 an hour for this honor.
I worked a series of jobs in college: dishwasher, janitor, handyman, grass cutter. I worked as a bouncer, too, which involved kicking drunk people out of bars and mopping up that which some patrons couldnt keep down the most respect I ever got.
In any event, these jobs helped me learn how to socialize and work with others. I learned how to sell, bid jobs and manage money. I learned self-reliance and the joy that comes with a job well done.
As more of todays teens miss out on such experiences, how might that affect their future? How might it affect Americas?
Are we encouraging more kids to rely on the government, rather than themselves, to meet their basic needs in their adult years? The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that programs like ObamaCare will discourage people from working.
A strong work ethic is what built America. We need to maintain it to keep our country going and produce our needed tax revenue.
Thats why Im troubled that fewer teens want to work these days
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist.