The Bearing of Economic Forces on the Adjustments of Adolescents and Youth

First has been the long-time tendency in American life to shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy, from rural self-sufficiency to the commercial orientation of all economic activity. This trend has continually reduced the number of selfemployed persons in the economy and has made an increasing proportion of the population dependent upon others, primarily industrial corporations, for jobs. Increased emphasis on invention, technology, and mass production, as developed under the American system of corporate industrial management, has characterized this development. Efficiency of operation demands the concentration of wealth, human energy, and management into large units of production. In these great industrial organizations employment is dependent upon the needs of the corporation which, in turn, reflects market conditions. The welfare of the individual employee is of secondary concern.

Second has been the bringing to a climax of the long period of agitation against child labor. The early factory systems exploited children, youths, and women. A socially minded society had to develop protective devices to guarantee the health and education of its citizens. The general tendency has been to increase the age level at which adolescents can enter so-called "hazardous" occupations. Once it was fourteen, now in most cities it is sixteen, and, for certain kinds of highly mechanized industries, eighteen. This purposeful exclusion of adolescents and youths from the labor market by social legislation has been matched by a comparable increase in ages of compulsory schooling which in many states have risen from fourteen to sixteen.

Third has been the growth of labor unions which have come to control entry to occupations according to the number of jobs available. Emphasis upon seniority rights, which employers have come to recognize, gives the established experienced worker an advantage over youth.

Fourth has been the general trend of American industry and agriculture to replace man power with machine power in the interest of economy, safety, and general efficiency. These normal trends, which have been continuous over a period of a century, were given great impetus by the First World War and again by the Second World War, when man-power shortages were felt. With this trend of development in the industrial culture, jobs have not been adequate for periods when the demand for industrial products was low. As a consequence, large employers of labor have felt it necessary to exclude some group from the labor market. The inexperienced youth group without family responsibilities and without particular value to the industrial machine has been the easiest to exclude, even easier than the aged to whom industry acknowledged a responsibility in some cases because of a long term of service.

It is because of these major social forces and others which are closely, related to this whole complex of urban-industrial civilization that many more youth in peacetime have been reaching the point in life where they are ready to work to find no jobs forthcoming and have also been unable to go out on their own and create jobs for themselves. The American Youth Commission, in summarizing a series of studies, reports that they become more certain, as their studies progressed,

. . . that the major causes of youth unemployment are to be found in basic economic trends rather than in social and educational institutions for youth. Very, few youth are so unemployable that they cannot be employed when jobs are available. . . .

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