Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dirk D. Steiner


Young adults are two to three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults, and African-American and poorly educated youths are disproportionately unemployed (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1995a). The goal of the present study was to identify precursors of youth unemployment that could be targets of interventions. This longitudinal study explored the relationship between individual, family, and neighborhood factors, measured during junior high and high school, and the employment status of 19-year-old males. Participants were individuals participating in the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal study of prosocial and antisocial behavior. This random sample of 506 males were 7th graders at the beginning of the study. Data from interviews with participants, their caretakers, and their teachers were supplemented with job access data from the 1990 census, operationalized as their neighborhood's average travel time to work. Analyses investigating the predictors of employment status were limited to the 244 participants not enrolled in college. Results showed that individual factors such as academic achievement and high school employment were associated with an increased likelihood of employment and that serious delinquency and substance use problems were associated with a decreased likelihood of employment. Family factors including higher parental expectations and more household chores were associated with an increased likelihood of employment, and parental unemployment, receiving public assistance, and low socio-economic status (SES) were associated with a decreased likelihood of employment. Finally, neighborhood factors, including negative perceptions of job availability and lower job access, were associated with a decreased likelihood of employment. Many of these same predictors were also associated with high school employment. Multiple regression indicated that high school employment, receiving public assistance, delinquency, and race were associated with employment status after controlling for other predictors in the equation. The strong relationship between high school employment and later employment was discussed in light of previous research indicating negative effects of high school employment on students' academic performance (e.g., Barton, 1989). Potential interventions were discussed, and future research directions were considered including the need for causal modeling to explore relationships between family disadvantage variables, youth unemployment and other key variables.