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A summer job can set teens up for a lifetime of success, experts say

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Fortune, June 2024

When California-based psychologist and parenting coach Becca Ballinger saw her teen clients floundering after the pandemic, she often gave them a piece of solid advice: Get a summer job. “The patients of mine that took me up on it just blossomed,” she tells Fortune, adding that it was especially beneficial for those who were depressed. “They now had something to get out of bed to do, and it made them feel that they had purpose. Plus, they loved the paycheck. I saw it was a really, really good thing for their mental health, as well as their future stability.”

While the advice may seem like a no-brainer to boomer or Gen X parents who scooped ice cream or worked retail in high school as a rite of passage, it bears repeating for teens today, who are less likely to get summer jobs than they were a generation or two ago—due to a mix of jobs being automated or outsourced, plus a rise in college-focused summer classes. In the summer of 1978, for example, nearly 60% of teens were working or looking for work; that percentage has generally been on the decline ever since, seeing a steep drop-off after 2000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017, just 35% of teens were working or looking for work.

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