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Protecting youth at work: health, safety and development of working children and adolescents in the United States.

National Research Council; Institute of Medicine
Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1998 Sep; :1-318
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that about 44 percent of 16-and 17-year-olds work at some time during the year, either while in school or during the summer or both. The government estimates do not include children younger than 16 who may work, although the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that about 40 percent of 7th and 8th graders were employed during the school year. Children of any age may work in family-owned businesses and on family farms. But even the official numbers for 16-and 17-year-olds are likely to be underestimates because they are based on reports by parents or other adults in the household. Research has found that parents systematically understate the involvement in the work force of their children. Department of Labor estimates are also limited by rather specific definitions of work. When high school students are interviewed directly through research surveys, about 80 percent report that they hold jobs during the school year at some point during high school. A notable characteristic of working adolescents is that they move in and out of the labor market, changing jobs and work schedules frequently, in response to changes in employers' needs, labor-market conditions, and circumstances in their own lives. Children and teens, like adults, work mainly for the money. Children's income, however, no longer goes primarily toward family support, as it once did: The majority of working adolescents spend most of their incomes on discretionary items or on their individual needs. The biggest employer of adolescents is the retail sector - restaurants, fast-food outlets, grocery stores, and other retail stores - which employs more than 50 percent of all working 15-to 17-year-olds. The next biggest employer is the service sector (e.g., health-care settings such as nursing homes), which accounts for more than 25 percent of working adolescents, followed by 8 percent employed in agriculture. Several of the industries in these sectors of the economy have high rates of injury for all workers. Rates of injury are high, for example, in grocery stores and nursing homes, and agriculture is among the most dangerous industries in the country, with a high rate of fatal injuries. Some parts of the youth population face unique problems related to work. Children and adolescents who are poor, minority, or disabled are far less likely than white, middle-class young people to be employed and, therefore, to reap the potential benefits of work experience. Furthermore, the jobs that poor and minority young people have tend to be in more dangerous industries. When they do work, the hours they work and the wages they receive are comparable to those of other youngsters.
Agricultural-industry; Agriculture; Agricultural-workers; Agricultural-machinery; Occupational-accidents; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-exposure; Hazards; Children; Farmers; Injuries; Machine-operators; Work-environment; Workers; Tractors; Work-analysis; Protective-equipment; Protective-measures; Retail-workers; Food-services; Grocery-stores; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Health-services; Traumatic-injuries
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Protecting youth at work: health, safety and development of working children and adolescents in the United States
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National Academy of Sciences
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division