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Why teens have a tough time finding summer work

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The pattern in summer is echoed year round. As of May, for example, the same ratio of employment to population stood at a six-decade low of 34.6 percent, after an adjustment for seasonal fluctuations.

Why is this happening?

The trend is partly a story of changing choices by teens and their parents. Many, especially in upper- or middle-class neighborhoods, have decided that academic or volunteer activities may look better on college applications.

But some economists who study the teen labor market say jobs are also scarcer than in past years, affecting young people of all backgrounds. Finding work remains much harder for young black, Latino, and Asian-Americans than for their white peers.

On Washington Street here, Dedric isn't the only young African-American hoping for a job. Just down the block, Gerald Richardson, 13, has been volunteering after school, mentoring other kids at the Salvation Army. He says he wants to do more of that, for pay, during the summer.

He has a good shot at getting his wish, since city funding will help create 40 jobs here. But last year, this same community center was able to hire 48 young people like Gerald.

"Funding is tough," says Matt Parker, who will be doing the hiring. He says job opportunities are slimmer now than when he was Gerald's age in the mid-1990s.

"Kids are competing for a lot of jobs with adults now," Mr. Parker says, whether it's bagging groceries or doing a financial internship, as he did one summer.

The challenges faced by young Boston residents are mirrored, to varying degrees, in communities nationwide.

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