mum. For young workers still in school, however, the most important cost of work-related injuries or illnesses may not be their lost wages but the disruption of their educations—missed classes, lower grades, and other education-related adverse outcomes. In addition, young workers have a longer time over which to suffer from disabilities or illnesses that result from early work-related incidents. A few states do provide double indemnity compensation for young workers who are injured while child labor laws were being violated.


Evidence points to general underutilization of workers' compensation. Several studies (Cone et al., 1991; Leigh et al., 1996; Stout and Bell, 1991) have found that between 30 percent and 60 percent of work-related fatalities are not represented in workers' compensation records. In a study of nonfatal work-related injuries to adolescents, Parker and colleagues (1994) found that 67 percent of the eligible injuries were not reported to workers' compensation. Several factors may account for workers' failure to file legitimate claims: lack of understanding of their rights to compensation; fear of retaliation; pressure from their employers; or their own desire to be team players. ("Experience-rated" methods allow firms to pay workers' compensation premiums based in part on their claims history, providing incentives for employers to minimize the number of claims.)

These factors may play an even greater role for teenagers. Young workers are still finding their place in the adult world and may be more susceptible to pressure not to file claims. They also have less knowledge of this complex system and their rights under it and fewer resources for pursuing their claims, if they are covered at all. Young workers' low usage of workers' compensation remedies reflects the larger problem that key regulatory systems for workers rely to a great extent on the initiative of those workers directly affected. That workers may not take the initiative in the face of many work-place pressures is always a concern, but the concern is greater when inequalities of age and experience are factors as well.

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