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Teenage Unemployment: Permanent Scars or Temporary Blemishes?


  • David T. Ellwood


This paper examines the persistence and long-term impacts of early labor force experiences. The paper reports a rise in employment rates for a cohort of young men as they age, but points out that those persons with poor employment records early have comparatively poor records later. In order to asses the extent to which differences in later employment and wages are causally related to these earlier employment experiences, the methodologies of Heckman, Chamberlain, and others are extended to account for Markov type persistence and a straight forward estimation technique results. In addition, a Sims type causality test is used to measure the true impact of work experience on wages. The paper concludes that the effects of a period without work do not end with that spell. A teenager who spends time out of work in one year will probably spend less time working in the next than he would have had he worked the entire year. Furthermore, the lost work experience will be reflected in considerably lower wages. At the same time, the data provide no evidence that early unemployment sets off a vicious cycle of recurrent unemployment. The reduced employment effects die off very quickly. What appears to persist are effects of lost work experience on wages.

Suggested Citation

  • David T. Ellwood, 1979. "Teenage Unemployment: Permanent Scars or Temporary Blemishes?," NBER Working Papers 0399, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0399
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lillard, Lee A & Willis, Robert J, 1978. "Dynamic Aspects of Earning Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(5), pages 985-1012, September.
    2. Kim B. Clark & Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "The Dynamics of Youth Unemployment," NBER Chapters,in: The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, pages 199-234 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Heckman, James J, 1978. "Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 931-959, July.
    4. Robert H. Meyer & David A. Wise, 1982. "High School Preparation and Early Labor Force Experience," NBER Chapters,in: The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, pages 277-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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