Editorial: Get a job — It’s best to untangle immigration and teen unemployment
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Sep 06, 2013 | 2380 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In his Tea Party-fueled tirade against immigration reform, Sen. Jeff Sessions strayed a bit off message to address the record-high unemployment among teenagers. Off message, we presume, unless he somehow believes that illegal immigrants contribute to the high rate of out-of-work adolescents — a questionable assumption at best.

Teenage unemployment is a separate matter.

Apparently referring to statistics compiled by the Labor Department’s Current Population Survey, the senator decried the fact that today only a “mere third” of youngsters ages 16 to 19 have summer jobs — down from half in 1999.

The senator was right to point this out, for summer employment has traditionally been a gateway to the world of work for many young people.

Had he addressed this in another context, one not dominated by immigration issues, he could have also pointed how teenage unemployment mirrors unemployment in general, with black youths most likely to be without jobs and Hispanic youths not far behind (which seems to contradict the illegal-immigrants-take-jobs assertion). White teenagers come out the best, with the ones from affluent families doing better still, but in all categories the numbers of employed teens are down.

Study after study has revealed the positive impact of teenage employment. Not only is there the economic benefit, but teens with work experience are more likely to graduate from high school and, eventually, from college.

So what is the answer?

Conservative economists contend that a lower minimum wage would allow businesses to hire more students in the summer or after school, thus giving them the work experience that is so important. That the businesses’ bottom line would be enhanced also figures into this scheme.

Liberal economists argue that the expansion of government programs aimed at employing young people, especially in rural areas or in the inner city, is the best way to go.

This page hopes that Sen. Sessions, R-Mobile, will extract this issue from the immigration debate and address it separately. That must be done before any solution can be reached.
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