I was talking with my son the other day about summer jobs. He wants some extra cash – and with us in a bit of a rural location it’s a little harder to wander up and down he street with a mower and offer to mow someone’s lawn for $5.
As we talked I started to realize how many jobs for kids are now gone. Paper routes – the mainstay of child cash, have been killed by the internet like the newspapers themselves – well the internet and overall lack of humans reading at all. Bussing tables is still popular but child labor laws prevent that at the age of 15… and you also have to fight with adults who are vying for the positions. Same with McDonalds, stocking shelves, and many of the traditional minimum wage jobs of American youth.
Not to be less than politically correct or insensitive to migrants – but the adage used by congressmen who applauded the opening of restrictions on immigration is that most of these jobs Americans don’t want. Which may be true. But there is a difference between not wanting a job, and not having them available to you due to excess competition. Which isn’t to say the woes of American youth rest where they are because of illegal immigrants or any other such nonsense.
No the woes of American youth rest where they are simply because we’ve systematically dismantled a number of jobs which, economists refer to as “long tail indicators”. You have to wonder how many kids who wanted to buy 3 comic books can only afford to buy 1. How many kids who wanted to buy mom something nice for mothers day, or spend a little cash on some bottle rockets or even an extra Hershey bar… aren’t doing that. If they aren’t – then what effect does that have on things like candy bars and comic books and summer movie tickets and even… summer bonnets or cheap mothers day gifts.
Humans react financially a bit like squirrels. You cut off that long tail and yes, they can survive. But not well. The balance is gone, they can’t leap as far or as fast and they don’t recover very readily when they fall.
Just some food for thought.