Pathways to High-Quality Jobs for Young Adults

By on November 9, 2018

From Brookings:  Helping young people prepare to engage in work and life as productive adults is a central challenge for any society. Yet, many young people in the United States—particularly those from low-income or less educated families—find that the path to employment and economic security in adulthood is poorly marked or inaccessible.

Using an advanced methodology and longitudinal data, this report examines two main questions:

  • The quality of jobs (as measured by wages, benefits, hours, and job satisfaction) held by 29-year-olds who experienced disadvantage in adolescence
  • Whether particular employment, education, and training experiences in adolescence and early adulthood predict higher-quality jobs for 29-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds

We found that while most 29-year-olds are employed, background matters. Among those who were disadvantaged as adolescents, 79 percent are employed at age 29, and among those workers, 38 percent have high-quality jobs as measured by our job quality index. Their counterparts—29-year-olds from non-disadvantaged backgrounds—fare better: 90 percent are employed, and 48 percent of those have high-quality jobs.

Job quality among those from disadvantaged backgrounds varies by race and ethnicity: 21 percent of blacks have lower-quality jobs compared to 13 percent of whites and Hispanics. However, after controlling for education, training, work experience, and other characteristics, the gap in job quality scores between blacks and whites disappears, further emphasizing the value of equipping all young people for success in the labor market.

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About Dede Hance

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