Instead of spending their summers earning cash pouring lattes, working drive-thru windows or waiting tables, an increasing number of teens are putting down their aprons and staying in school.
According to a study by the Brookings Institution, fewer teens are taking on summer jobs than ever before. The study found that there is an increase in year-round school enrollment and a decrease in the number of employed teens. In 1979, almost 60% of American teenagers were employed, an all-time high. In 2018, about 35% of teens between the ages of 16-19 were part of the workforce.
"What we're seeing is that there is definitely more enrollment is school," Jay Shambaugh, Director of The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the study, tells CNBC Make It. "You have 16- to 19-year-olds either taking community college classes, in summer school, or [in] overall extra enrichment courses."
The study also found that there were fewer teenagers reporting "household responsibilities," such as taking care of a family member or doing household chores, as the reason why they don't work.
The BLS predicts that by 2024 teen labor force participation will drop to 26.4%, less than the participation rate of those ages 65 to 74, 29.9% of whom are employed. As CNBC previously reported, in the restaurant industry, teen workers used to outnumber adults ages 55 and older by a 3:1 ratio. Now it's 2:1, and companies have to get more creative in recruitment.
McDonald's offers the Archways to Opportunity program, which provides workers the opportunity to earn tuition assistance and scholarships after 90 days of employment, or the equivalent of a summer job. Taco Bell, Burger King and Starbucks also offer educational incentives to draw in potential employees and give them a reason to stay with the company. Taco Bell has also hosted national hiring parties, offering free food and on-the-spot interviews.
And prioritizing education over work experience isn't necessarily the wrong choice for today's teens. According to the study, there is evidence that the benefits of early work force experience have declined over time, though further research needs to be done to understand the long-term effects of this trade off.