25 things vanishing in America, part 2: Kids to do odd jobs

In 1900, 34.5% of Americans were under 15 years of age; in 1960, 31.1%. Today only 21.4% fall into this group. This is only one reason why it's all but impossible to find a youngster to mow your yard or shovel your walk.

At one time, going door to door with a snow shovel or a willingness to do yard work was the first step a child took toward an entrepreneurial future. In the days before self-propelled mowers and snow blowers, these kids were a godsend to the elderly and infirm, who paid them a pittance but took comfort in knowing they had played a part in the teaching the kid the meaning of capitalism.

Today, however, many of us hire professionals to tend our lawns and plow our drives, because the pool of willing teenagers has dried up. Why? I see several reasons beyond demographics --

  • Parents are more well-to-do (at least, until the last year). When a teen receives a healthy allowance, why would he/she hustle the neighborhood to earn money instead of hanging out with friends at the mall?
  • We've become very cautious about allowing our children to interact with adults who we don't know or trust.
  • Our progeny is often so booked with academics and recreation that free time is at a premium.
  • Many of our kids are fat, and find physical labor difficult and unpleasant.
  • Liability concerns have caused many of us to refrain from hiring a youngster that could be injured while working for us.

As the country's population continues to age, there will be more and more retirees who need help maintaining their homes, but don't have the income to hire a professional. If our youngsters won't step up, who will? Robots?

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