Skip to content


Young Workers in Los Angeles

luis gonzalez sam comen crop 600
Photo courtesy of Sam Comen

Young workers are the faces that greet us in coffee shops, fast food establishments, retail stores, restaurants, and grocery markets. Over a quarter of all Los Angeles workers are between the ages of 16-30. They are a core part of our economy, yet in LA County, their unemployment rate is double the national rate at 16%.

Early labor market experiences play a central role in shaping earnings and career trajectories; thus, they can have lasting consequences for economic security and patterns of economic inequality over their lives. This is why the misconception of young workers being “seen as basically unskilled, non-essential and easy to replace,” is so damaging. Ultimately, the goal of the study is to impact policies that will increase wages and promote equality and mobility among young workers currently employed in low-wage service sector labor markets.

“The fact that so many people call this young generation privileged ‘millenials’ just shows how distanced perception is from the reality of what young people face today in the workplace,” says Saba Waheed, research director at the UCLA Labor Center. “Intervening early could have a huge impact on the future of work in Los Angeles.”

This is why the UCLA Labor Center has embarked upon a research project to learn about the experiences of young workers in Los Angeles county.

Since fall of 2014, students from classes in UCLA’s Labor and Workplace studies minor have been actively engaged in a participatory research project to survey young workers across Los Angeles county. As young workers themselves, they are leading the research and developing quantitative and analytical research skills.

Initial findings will be published at the end of April, with full findings forthcoming this fall.

For more information, contact Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Project Director.


Related Posts

I am a #YoungWorker

I am a #YOUNGWORKER – Report Release

Report: A Snapshot of Young Workers in LA


Media Links

Al Jazeera America – Young people work to survive, not play

Annenberg TV News – New Study Sheds Light On Young Workers’ Experiences

Annenberg TV News – Wages Are Dropping For LA County Young Workers

Daily Bruin – UCLA Labor Center, SolArt document struggles of young workers in LA

KCET Departures – Speaking Out on Labor Inequality and Misperceptions of Young Workers

KCET Departures – Young Workers, Low-Wage Workers: UCLA Study Finds that Millennials are Among the Lowest Paid in LA County

KPCC – At jobs fair, teenagers and young adults want to work for more than just pocket money

UCLA Newsroom – UCLA students document experiences of L.A.’s young workers