The Young Adult Labor Force in Massachusetts - Prepared for the Boston Private Industry Council
The Economic and Public Policy Research (EPPR) group at the UMass Donahue Institute (UMDI) conducted research on the young adult labor force in Massachusetts. Research has shown that in recent years, labor force participation has declined among young adults (16 to 24 years old). There are a number of factors attributable to the decline in youth labor force participation in general, including increased college attendance, fewer young people working while enrolled in school, and competition with older and more experienced workers in the labor market. While some of these factors may be viewed as “positive” things, such as the rising number of young people going to college, research does show early participation in the labor market has positive long-term impacts on young people. These positive impacts include the development of hard and soft professional skills, networking opportunities, reduced risk of negative socioeconomic outcomes and criminal behavior, and improved lifelong earning potential. These benefits are being experienced by a smaller number of young people today than in the past. Perhaps most importantly, labor market connectivity is more common for young adults who are white, female, and native born, who have higher levels of education, and who are from more affluent households. With that, more historically disadvantaged populations are less likely to experience some of the benefits associated with early participation in the labor market.