February 16, 2017

Youth Employment Policy Forum

On February 16, the PIC, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development hosted a Youth Employment Policy Forum. Dr. Mark Melnik of the UMass Donahue Institute and Dr. Alicia Sasser Modestino of Northeastern University presented findings from their respective research on trends in youth employment in Massachusetts and underscored the need for programs that connect teens and young adults to employment opportunities. The goal of the forum was to highlight the decrease in labor market participation among teens and young adults in Massachusetts, explore the positive effects that employment has on youth, and discuss the implications for public policy.

Dr. Melnik presented findings from his PIC-commissioned study, The Young Adult Labor Force in Massachusetts, including that young adults in Massachusetts (16-24 years old) are participating in the labor market at significantly lower levels today than throughout much of the last 35 years (46% today vs. 58% in 1980). He also discussed the race/ethnic and family income disparities in youth employment rates in Massachusetts, with students coming from Black and Hispanic households participating in the labor force at lower rates than their white peers. Additionally, young adults living in poverty are far less likely to be employed than those coming from more affluent households.

Dr. Modestino shared findings from her report, How Do Summer Youth Employment Programs Improve Outcomes? And for Whom? Initial Results from a Pilot Survey. Preliminary results show that summer employment programs have a variety of positive impacts on youth, including significant improvements in several measures of financial capability, job readiness skills, future expectations, and attitudes toward community. Additionally, after completing Boston Summer Youth Employment Programs, participants were more likely to know how to open a bank account, have a resume and cover letter, plan on attending a four-year college, and have positive attitudes toward their communities. 

The forum served as a kick-off point for what we hope to be a continuing conversation among researchers, economists, and policymakers on strategies to increase teen and young adult participation in the Massachusetts labor market. Knowing the demonstrated benefits that early employment holds for young people, we look forward to further exploring ways to connect more youth to employment opportunities. Additional event photos will be available on the Boston PIC Facebook page soon.

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