Are Teens in Low-Income and Welfare Families Working Too Much?

Robert Lerman

The Urban Institute

This study uses data from the Urban Institute’s National Survey of American Families (NSAF) to see how a parent’s shift from welfare to work affects a teenager’s work life. The policy brief is part of The Urban Institute’s Assessing the New Federalism project.

The brief focuses on three questions: Do teens in low-income families work as much or more than other teens, and do teens in families who had left welfare work more than teens in families on welfare? How do high school students’ work patterns vary by race and gender? Is work by teens associated with negative school-related outcomes, especially among teens in low-income and welfare families?

Analysis of the 1997 NSAF, which looked at 2,630 16- to-17-year-old high school students, found that: 19 percent of those whose families left welfare worked 20 or more hours per week, compared with 2 percent of those on welfare and 9 percent of those who had never been on welfare; 21 percent of black males work 20 or more hours per week, the most of any race and gender group; teens working 20 or more hours per week are less likely than those not working to skip school but are also less likely to do their homework, more likely to do poorly in school and more likely to be suspended or expelled. Seven pages. Free. Bonnie Nowak, The Urban Institute, 2100 M St., NW, Washington, DC 20037. (202) 261-5850.


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