Washington, D.C. (May 11, 2011) – In the wake of the Great Recession, young employees (ages 16-24) in low-income families continue to struggle to balance their need to work while obtaining the education they must have to succeed in today’s complex and challenging economy.
A new research study from Corporate Voices for Working Families provides a comprehensive profile of these low-income young employees. The study also highlights the fact that employers that deeply engage in helping younger low-income employees continue their education, both by expanding workplace flexibility and other direct support for working students, can make significant contributions to positive outcomes for their young employees while meeting business needs.
“Our research report doesn’t paint a picture of unmotivated youth,” Donna Klein, Executive Chair and CEO of Corporate Voices, said. “Rather, it paints a picture of young people who have impossibly difficult choices to make, choices between short-term survival and long-term earning potential. The key to helping them resolve that conflict is an evolved company culture that understands the critical role it plays in building the workforce on the future.”
Drawn from census and other large datasets, the comprehensive composite of these young employees in low-income families shows that they are more likely than higher-income employed youth to be:
• Head of household
• Hispanic or Non-Hispanic Black
In addition, the study shows that these young employees average $597 a week, if working full time.
From an employer’s perspective, several findings of this profile of young, low-income employees stand out:
• Young low-income employees have to work.
• Young low-income employees who stay in school are more likely to complete school.
• The work and school schedules of young low-income employees can conflict with one another.
• Young low-income employees are more likely to stay in school if their employers offer workplace flexibility policies.
“These findings emphasize the critical role that employers play in linking students and higher education, and in making it possible for low-income young students to achieve postsecondary credentials,” Klein said. “For Corporate Voices, the policy implications of this work are clear. If the country needs more young low-income people with postsecondary degrees or credentials, we need to make it possible for employers to create working conditions in which young employees can stay in school to get their degrees.”
The report also finds that the available data about young low-income employees does not address many important questions about how these young people are working and pursuing postsecondary credentials. The report outlines directions current datasets could be expanded to paint a more complete picture about this population.
“A Profile of Young Employees (16-26) in Low-Income Families” is available at no cost on the Corporate Voices for Working families website at www.corporatevoices.org
Released in conjunction with an event that recognized the Best Companies for Hourly Workers, held in Washington, D.C., on May 3, the report was prepared for Corporate Voices by the Families and Work Institute with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.