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Problems with Youth Unemployment

jazzrack Friday November 7, 2014


my 3rd essay for my WGU composition class




A popular complaint heard in neighborhoods throughout America is that the youth of today are either on their electronic devices playing games or hanging out on the street corner with nothing to do and causing trouble. However, these are symptoms of a problem with youth employment. With youth unemployment around 15.8 % (Budig & Heaps, 2014), it has become a major problem in the United States today. Youth unemployment is made worse with zoning regulations that have separated entry-level jobs from poor communities, minimum wage increases pricing youth out of jobs (Congressional Budget Office, 2014), and an educational system that focuses on academic education even for those that would benefit from a more practical educational path.

The good intentions of zoning regulations is not in question, but the unintended consequences are becoming clear; the separation of entry level jobs from those who need them the most. The poor are the least likely to be able to move close to a job, or they change jobs too often to make moving closer to a job practical. As a result, a commute is not just a minor inconvenience, it is a barrier to life improvement. The costs of a commute are not just in dollars. The time spent waiting for busses or walking miles limits opportunities. For example, if a person can walk to work in 10 minutes, this gives them more time to take and complete classes, parent children and stay connected with friends, family and community. If that same person has personal transportation, the commute boundary that still allows for personal and lifestyle improvement widens, greatly. For those families that have been priced out of personal transportation due to economic realities and deliberate policy decisions, job opportunities are reduced because of the reduced commute boundary. Additionally, they are still spending a much longer time in transit. These policies also interact with other well-intentioned policies such as minimum wage laws that further limit the opportunity of youth and people from other vulnerable groups.


Raising the minimum wage is popular and clearly can help the lifestyle of some people. These actions do not come without a cost on the other side. A Recent Congressional Budget Office report noted, “But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.” (CBO, 2014) It is the young worker that these issues are most likely to impact. Youth lack the contacts that develop after a long and diverse job path which so often open the door to higher job opportunities. This is due to transportation issues limiting their ability to flood the commute area with applications and in-person follow up, the likelihood of getting an interview decreases. In addition, a business or individual’s willingness to take a chance on an under skilled worker decreases as the cost increases. When you combine this with an education system that is focused on academics over entry-level job training, the disadvantage begins to grow larger.

For decades our education system has focused on sending every child to college, so they can have a good career and secure financial independence. We have ignored or discounted the training needs of janitors, hairdressers, warehouse workers and other service or manual labor based career paths. Local schools should be seen as palaces of opportunity by the youth of our poor communities. Instead they are designed based on middle and upper class experiences and values. They don’t focus on immediate and practical job skills, they are seen as disconnected and even insulting to those who could benefit the most. The youth in families whose primary job experience is manual labor or service based have a difficult time justifying the time an expense of a college degree when they struggle to buy food and clothes today. If our educational system can’t benefit their perceived needs of today, they have a difficult time seeing how our current educational system will benefit them in the future. This system leaves the under privileged youth at an even greater disadvantage when unintended consequences begin to interplay.


It would not be fair to claim there has been an assault on the employment opportunities of our youth. As was noted in a recent newspaper article, “individuals, society and the economy suffer from a generation hamstrung by poor, little or no work experience” (Budig & Heaps, 2014). The individual policy decision have been driven by good intentions and a genuine desire to help people and society. Yet, the lack of focus on the combined negative consequences is leaving our society ill prepared to deal with these long term issues of youth unemployment being made worse by zoning regulations that have separated entry-level jobs from poor communities, minimum wage increases pricing youth out of jobs (CBO, 2014), and an educational system that focuses on academic education even for those that would benefit from a more practical educational path.



References Budig, G., & Heaps, A. (2014, May 4). Unemployment a crisis for youth: Column. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/05/04/economy-youth-unemployment-jobs-america-column/8471769/ The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income. (2014, February 18). Retrieved October 13, 2014, from http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44995

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