Adults, Not Games Causing Decline in Teen Employment

The bad economic climate in America has produced the lowest level of teen employment ever, and while some would be keen to blame distraction like video games as the cause, the truth is those jobs teens used to get are being taken by adults trying to make ends meet. A recent analysis from Federal Reserve found that, while kids are spending more time on college prep and summer classes, increasing competition from adults taking the low-paying jobs that teenagers used to do is becoming a common occurrence.

Since 2007, the employment-to-population ratio for 16 – 17-year-olds fell from 23 percent to 15 percent. The youth employment rate has fallen during every recession since the 1980s. Federal Reserve economist Christopher L. Smith wrote in a paper released last week that adults are taking teen jobs in industries like retail food service.

"Much of the crowd-out from adults is likely due to polarization of the adult labor market, driven by the declining costs of computerization and automation which have displaced some less-educated adult workers into service sector jobs that teens tend to do," Smith wrote.

The number of adults in teen jobs rose by 5 million from 1995 to 2010. If not for this trend, the teenage employment-to-population ratio could have been up to 5 percent higher in 2010.

But what's most interesting to us is Smith's analysis of video game usage and what effect it may be having on activities such as working at a part-time job. Using numbers from the American Time Use Survey, he noted that "[t]he average amount of time spent playing games is no more than an hour and has increased only modestly since 2003."

Smith also examined the life cycle of video game systems, noting that sales increase once a new system has been available for a while, its price has gone down and its games gotten better. From 2005 to 2006, time spent playing games decreased as game companies rolled out the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3.

"Although this pattern is suggestive evidence that the availability of videogames itself can influence time usage, the difference in videogame usage between employed and not employed males is too small to account for the difference in time spent on work-related activities," Smith concluded. "For instance, for 15-17 year old males, the non-employed play about 25 more minutes of games per school day than the employed, about 30 percent of the difference in time spent on work-related activities."

The unemployment rate for 16 – 17-year-olds is right around 30 percent, compared to 9.1 percent for the population as a whole.

 

Source: Huffington Post

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