Exploring the Changing Meaning of Work for American High School Seniors from 1976 to 2005
Using data from the Monitoring the Future study, this article presents historical trends in U.S. high school seniors’ work values across 30 years (1976-2005). Adolescents across three decades highly valued most aspects of work examined. Recent cohorts showed declines in the importance of work, values for job security, and various potential intrinsic rewards of work. After increasing until 1990, adolescents remained stable in their values for extrinsic and materialistic aspects of work until 2005. The value of work that allows for leisure time has steadily increased. Stable level differences in work values emerged for adolescents by gender, race, parents’ education, and college aspirations. Findings have implications for understanding the changing meaning of work for the future workforce.