Study examines youth job trends

Joe Carlson

A new University study is focusing on why high school and college students drop out, and what skills students need to ensure a livable wage.
“The study is basically a look at the educational and economic successes of St. Paul youth,” said Professor Dennis Ahlburg from the University’s Industrial Relations Center.
University sociology professor Jeylan Mortimer said the University’s two-year study will attempt to determine what skills youth need to earn a livable wage.
The St. Paul Youth Study will define livable wage not as a number, but as the combination of several qualitative factors like job stability and the potential for wage increase.
The study will also examine factors that affect the success of young people in the labor market, such as family and neighborhood pressures.
“The main purpose of this study is to track children after they get out of school and see what happens to them in the labor market,” said Humphrey Institute Dean G. Edward Schuh.
One particular perception the study will examine is why youth from neighborhoods with lower unemployment rates seem to do better in the job market than those from neighborhoods with higher unemployment.
The St. Paul Youth Study will use past data collected in a number of other studies, including information from the Youth Development Study, said Mortimer, who is also the director of the Youth Development Study.
The Youth Development Study, which started in 1986, is an ongoing study that has collected data on the progress of more than 1,000 St. Paul youth from the ninth grade onward.
St. Paul Youth Study researchers will come from a number of University colleges and institutes, including the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, the Carlson School of Management and the College of Liberal Arts.
“It is the multidisciplinary collaboration, which is what you need to solve these problems,” Schuh said.
The Northwest Area Foundation gave a $250,000 grant in May to the Humphrey Institute to conduct the St. Paul Youth Study.
The Northwest Area Foundation is an organization that funds research and programs designed to improve economic conditions for the poor. It has $350 million in assets and operates in an eight-state area in the northern United States.
Vice President of Programs John Foster-Bey said the foundation’s previous research has focused on adults. The University study will be one of the first the foundation has sponsored to exclusively study youth.
Foster-Bey said the St. Paul Youth Study will go beyond simple empirical research.
“It will be a combination of data gathering and in-depth analysis,” Foster-Bey said, adding that much of the information will be gathered from personal interviews.
Once the study has been conducted, the Northwest Area Foundation will make the study results available to other organizations with interests similar to its own.
Groups who wish to affect public policy in the development of the youth work force might be interested in the study’s information, Foster-Bey said. Community organizations that want to create new social action programs to help youth sustain a livable wage might also be interested in the study’s results, he said.
“We hope that it would give us insight into which action programs that we might fund and support,” Foster-Bey said.