Teens in low-income families are being forced to trade in school for work because of the nation's slow economy, according to a new study by the University of Massachusetts and Boston College.
The Boston Globe
reports the study, "How Youth Are Put At Risk by Parents' Low Wage Jobs," details how the working poor have been hard hit by stagnating wages, especially since the recession officially ended in 2009.
As a result, the newspaper reported Monday, more and more adolescents are having to take on "adult responsibilities to help keep families afloat," a situation that puts their own futures at risk as they neglect their education, or drop out of school completely to become "trapped in low-paying jobs."
“Low-wage work is the new poverty,” Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Boston and one of the study's authors, told the Globe. “It’s not good for those kids, their school districts, and the economy as a whole if we’re keeping kids back because of the quality of their parents’ job.”
According to the study, which focused on the disproportionate challenges faced by teenagers in poor families, about 1 in 6 of the nation's adolescents, or about 3.6 million out of 20 million, live in low-wage households where parents make about $11 an hour.
"These young people are the sons and daughters of cashiers, nurses’ aides, janitors, and others with low-paying occupations," the Globe reported, citing the study. "Since the recession, they have fallen further behind, with their incomes growing at less than half the rate of inflation."
As education and specific skills become more important in finding higher-paying jobs, the loss of education among adolescents is expected to widen the gap between rich and poor. The unemployment rate for high school dropouts for example, was at 12 percent in October, but less than 4 percent for workers with bachelor degrees.
Even if they are able to find work in the future economy, high school dropouts can expect to earn less than half the lifetime income of those with a bachelor degree, according to Census figures cited by the Globe.
“The impact on educational achievement is going to be one of the biggest scars left from the recession,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute in Washington, told the Globe.
“From everything we know, high persistent unemployment will do more damage to the educational prospects of low-income students than all the positive outcomes from educational reforms that people talk about," he added.
According to figures cited Mischel in the Globe report, the numbers of full-time working poor making less than $11 an hour, or about $23,000 a year, have grown from about 23 percent in 2006 just before the recession began to about 28 percent 2011.
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