Many young people seek summer jobs to gain valuable workforce experience and have a safe, productive way to spend their summer months when they are out of school. But youth summer employment rates — like youth employment more generally — have fallen dramatically over the past few decades. Research has shown that summer employment is higher among teens from wealthy families than teens from poor families, and that White youth are significantly more likely to find summer jobs than young people of color: summer employment among 16- to 19-year-olds Whites was about 34 percent in 2015, compared with 19 percent for their Black peers.
For low-income teens and youth of color, municipal jobs programs can be an important bridge to summer work experience. Summer youth employment programs create opportunities for paid summer employment for youth within a specified age range, usually for a period of four to eight weeks. These programs provide subsidized wages for young people who work at selected employers during the summer, and often integrate other supports. Participants may work in a variety of entry-level jobs for employers including government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, nonprofit retail companies, and other small businesses. Summer employment programs are not proven to positively impact future employment, earnings, or academic achievement, but they can give young people opportunities to develop work experience, soft skills, and professional relationships that can help them transition into longer-term employment — which may be especially important for low-income youth and young people of color who do not have access to the same networks and social capital as their affluent White counterparts.
Summer youth employment programs can help young people build financial capability at the critical moment of earning their first paychecks. Research shows that a low-income child with a savings account in their own name is four times more likely to complete college. In addition to workforce skills, summer youth employment programs can offer financial education and a safe infrastructure for young people to learn how to save and avoid high-cost, predatory financial services such as payday lenders and check-cashing services.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see the Brookings Institution and Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for more resources on summer youth employment.