What do factory jobs do for poor youths?

At least four things, according to David Atkin’s evidence from Mexican maquiladoras:

  1. Workers earn better wages than in non-export oriented industries;
  2. Women who get jobs have taller children;
  3. But youth drop out of school earlier to take the jobs; and
  4. For those that drop out, their wages in the long term are lower than if they had stayed in school and gone to work for the factories later.

The papers, exemplars of careful empirical research, are here and here.

One of David’s suggestions:  adolescents might be more impatient than adults and so make that long term income trade off (perhaps to the dismay of their future, older selves).

This is controversial stuff, especially to the stubbornly neoclassical economists. (Or at least the ones who don’t have teenage children.)

In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that adolescent brains aren’t yet fully developed, especially the frontal lobe. Most of all, they think less about the future and take more risks than they would when older.

I have plenty of neuropsych references somewhere on my hard drive, but this summary by Matt Rabin and Ted O’Donoghue is one of my favorites.