And on May 11, there was this headline from the Wall Street Journal: “Summer Jobs Are Easier to Find This Year.” Reported the Journal, “Summer job prospects for students … are looking brighter this year…Landing a summer job…became more difficult in recent years, as young people had to compete for jobs with older, more-experienced workers in a weaker employment market. Now, as the nation’s economy picks up steam and the unemployment rate hovers at its lowest level in nearly five years, many employers and online job sites report increased hiring this summer…Overall, [Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University] expects things to improve this summer, based on teen employment trends so far this year.”


One reason cited for these sunny forecasts — apart from the economy “pick[ing] up”— is the opt-out factor. As the Journal reported, “In recent years, many students have been opting out of the job market and going to summer-school programs.” Or, as the Nashua Telegraph wrote: “While many students will hunt for a summer job, an increasing number will hit the books, opening the door to employment for those wanting to work,” such that “students can thank their fellow peers, in part, for the positive job market this year…”


Which “peers,” exactly, can teens “thank” for opting-out of summer employment? Those on whom the New York Times Styles section chose to focus this past Sunday in its lament for the “Lost Summer for the College-Bound” — namely, that “small but growing number of college-bound students” who can only dream of scooping ice-cream or performing other “menial jobs” this summer but must instead do “resumé-building academic work” like attending summer classes at Brown University or undertaking “exotic projects to change the world” like volunteering at a camp for orphans in Romania, if not both. Why must these luckless young people forego the pleasures of burger-flipping and shirt-folding for “high achievement summers?” They are, per the Times, “driven largely by increased competition to get into elite colleges and universities…school administrators and parents say.”


And just when we thought the reporter, 890 words into it, was finally going to acknowledge the obvious, we get this: “The number of high school students competing in this Ivy-oriented decathlon tends to be limited to a thin slice of the most…” (affluent?) “… ambitious, said Joseph L. Mahoney, a psychologist on the faculty of Yale University.” Luckily, Mahoney later adds, “‘There is a general association: families that have higher incomes, more affluent families, have youth that participate’ in extracurricular activities ‘for a greater number of hours’ he said.” In other words, youth who have the privilege of having to be “ambitious” in this way.


Either way, as we learned from the Times not too long ago, these kids will all grow up to be successful moochers from “The Bank of Mom and Dad.”

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.