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By Daily Bruin Staff

July 5, 2010 9:00 p.m.

Conor Bell laments the dearth of summer jobs for teenagers (“Absent teen jobs hurt future,” June 28) and attributes it entirely to the current economic recession. But Mr. Bell misses an important, perhaps the most important, contributor to teen unemployment.

In a study released in May 2010, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies concluded that states with high levels of immigration, including California, have low levels of teenage labor force participation.

The report focuses on a time period that began in 1994. Then, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-born teenagers (ages 16 to 19) were in the summer labor force; by 2007 this percentage was less than half.

These 13 years all came to pass before the current recession. The report notes that during these same 13 years the overall number of immigrants (legal and illegal) holding a job doubled.

In particular, in occupations where teenage workforce participation declined the most, immigrants gained many jobs.

According to the report, the severity of the decline in workforce participation is similar for teenagers coming from both high and low income households and for Hispanics, blacks and whites who are U.S.-born. Many details can be found in the online report which contains 16 figures and 11 tables.

The authors note that those who do not hold jobs as teenagers often find themselves at a disadvantage later in life.

Ben Zuckerman

Professor of physics and astronomy

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