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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Summer jobs boost school success

Working for the summer pays off for teenagers from low-income families, concludes a study of Boston's summer job program. Winning the job lottery improved on-time graduation, attendance and grades, as well as work habits and college aspirations, write Alicia Sasser Modestino and Richard Paulsen, both economics professors, in Education Next.

Boston's program costs about $2,000 per participant, including wages, and provides more than double the long-term benefit, they estimate.

Participants work up to 25 hours a week at the state minimum wage of $15 an hour for six weeks. They receive "20 hours of job-readiness training, which includes an evaluation of learning strengths and interests; practical instruction in resume preparation, job-searching, and interviewing; and opportunities to develop soft skills like time management, effective communication, persistence, and conflict resolution."

In 2015, the year researchers analyzed, applicants mean grade point average was 1.9, a C-. Of those who won the random lottery, 83.5 percent took a job. Among lottery losers, 28 percent found a summer job on their own.

Attendance improved the most for males, applicants of legal dropout age, and students who'd been chronic absentees. Older students' grades showed the biggest gains.

Students who worked over the summer were more likely to say they'd gained a mentor, and "more likely to report having developed good work habits, such as being on time and keeping a schedule, as well as essential soft skills, such as managing emotions and asking for help." They also were more likely to say they were saving money for college.

About one in three teenagers had a job this July, they write. "Black and Hispanic teens are less likely to be employed than white students, both during the summer and the school year."

My husband's oldest granddaughter turned 14 in June and started work for a catering company as a server. She loves earning and spending her own money ($13 an hour), and being competent. Also, one of her co-workers, a boy, will be a senior at the high school where she'll be a freshman. He's given her advice: Don't eat cafeteria food. Bring your lunch.


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