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Teenagers and the Economy

After World War II, teenagers came into their own as consumers. That meant changes in teenage behavior. Today’s teen is twice as likely to get a job as a teenager in the 1950s. Back then young people were primarily concerned with school, sports, and having fun. Sprayberry High School Principal Paul Ross recalls his high school days and remembers only a few classmates had jobs. Now, more than 5 million teenagers between the ages of 12-17 work voluntarily for pay. Why? There are many reasons: wanting their own money, having fun, getting experience, but the number one reason is paying for cars and car insurance. In times past, that reason did not exist because most families had only one car to be shared. Young people today are bombarded by advertisements encouraging them to buy clothes, music, and jewelry. The average student worker puts in 20 hours a week, although some work as much as 35-40 hours a week. Principal Ross worries that school work suffers when teenagers work long hours. He is backed up by statistics. Those who work 10 hours a week actually have better grades, but with more hours of work, grades drop. Working takes another toll on teenagers; they have less free time for sports and leisure activities. Teenagers have to learn to allocate their time wisely.

Teacher tip: Ask students to design a poll to be taken by high school students at each grade level to determine how many students work and how many hours per week they work. Report the results to the high school principal.