Remember the job you had in high school? Scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins, babysitting for a neighbor, or a cashier at the mall? For me, it was a receptionist job at my friend’s dad’s place—a doctor’s office. Such drudgery has always been thought to come with a hidden bonus: The promise of higher future earnings. But, unfortunately for today's working high-school students, it seems that that effect may be waning.
A recent paper from economists Charles Baum and Christopher Ruhm found that for a cohort of kids who had jobs in the late 1970s, working for 20 hours a week in the senior year of high school yielded an 8.3 percent wage boost over their non-working high school buddies. For those who had jobs two decades later, in the late 90s, the boost was only 4.4 percent. This was true even when the researchers controlled for family background characteristics and student ability.
The most painful part: “Senior-year employment was predicted to decrease the probability of subsequently working in the relatively low-paid service sector for the 1979 cohort but to increase it for the 1997 cohort,” they write. They also found that the wage boost in the earlier cohort was largely limited to women, for reasons they could not determine.