associated with unhealthy and problem behaviors, including substance use and minor deviance, insufficient sleep and exercise, and limited time spent with families. Moreover, high-intensity work during adolescence has been found to be associated with decreased eventual educational attainment.
In contrast to these negative consequences, some other studies have found positive results associated with moderate-to high-intensity work during high school. The results include increased employment and higher earnings for as long as 10 years after students leave high school. While conclusions about positive benefits have been questioned in some analyses (one study found that the apparent increase in earnings disappeared after carefully controlling for unobserved differences among groups of students and that it was the students who did not work at all during high school who had the highest earnings a decade later), the findings suggest that attention will need to be given to how to specify the circumstances under which the benefits outweigh the negative consequences of high-intensity work by adolescents.
On balance, in the judgment of the committee, the scientific evidence supports increased restrictions on the intensity of work by children and adolescents. In keeping with its guiding principles and the research evidence, the committee believes that limiting the hours of work for most 16-and 17-year-olds during the school year is essential to their healthy development. Because of limits in the evidence, however, one cannot specify precisely at what intensity of work the negative consequences outweigh the benefits. Following the majority of the evidence to date, and the conventional cutoff used in many studies, the committee strongly supports a limit of 20 hours of work per week during the school year for adolescents under most circumstances.
The committee acknowledges that care will have to be taken in setting an upper limit in number of work hours for 16-and 17-year-olds. Some circumstances may warrant exemptions from the limitations on work hours during school, such as for adolescents in extreme financial need or for emancipated minors. There may also be special circumstances, related to an individual student or to the quality of the work (e.g., high-quality school-to-work placements), under which high-intensity work may be determined to have fewer negative consequences than benefits.