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Why can’t kids have jobs?
Aug 9, 2022
Season 3 | Episode 8

Why can’t kids have jobs?

They used to, and it didn't go so well.

After hearing Ryan and Bridget talk about money all season, one of our young listeners wants to know when she can start earning some money. This week we’ll look back to the time when lots of kids had jobs and learn about what’s changed and why. Along the way, we’ll learn that kids actually do have jobs, just not in the way you might think.

Arnel Alinea

And now … tips for grown-ups listening to “Million Bazillion” with kids

Money Talks

Here are some questions you can ask to find out what your child learned in this episode.

  1. What are some differences between those old-timey kid jobs and the jobs kids can have today?
  2. What’s the No. 1 job a kid has?
  3. What’s one fun thing you wish you could spend some time learning about?

Tip Jar

Plenty of kids want to earn money, but we can’t all be Millie Bobby Brown Molly Benny Beige. If you have an entrepreneurial kid, consider revisiting this episode from season one all about turning passion and problem solving into a viable business. We’re big fans of the University of Minnesota’s youth and money resources, particularly this guide, for setting an allowance and other strategies for kids to earn money while learning responsibility.

If your kid wants to learn more about the history of child labor, we recommend this article from Britannica Kids. It has a lot of good info without getting too grim. The University of Iowa has a good timeline of youth labor too.

Gimme 5

Thanks so much for listening this season! If you enjoyed the show, tell a friend about it! Do your kids still have money questions? Send them to us using this online form and we might answer them next season!

And we want to hear what parents think about “Million Bazillion”! You can help us by filling out a short survey here: marketplace.org/survey

Million Bazillion: S3 E8 Kids Jobs Script/Transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Scripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


RYAN: Ahhh, nothing like a day out in the Big City!




BRIDGET: What wonderful sights! Except for that pile of garbage.


RYAN: And marvelous smells! Except for that pile of garbage. Bridget, thanks for coming with me to my audition for the new Broadway musical, PaperPals; the lighthearted and whimsical show about the work-lives of children newspaper sellers at the turn of the century. I’m auditioning to play the hero, Joseph Pulitzer! I really hope I get the part!


BRIDGET: I can’t believe that today, on our season finale, we’re headed back to the same theater where we first met. I think that’s pretty neat!




CABBIE: Hey, do you two host that show Million Bazillion?!


BRIDGET: (TO RYAN) Ryan, look, we have a fan!


RYAN: Why yes, good cabbie, we do host that show!


CABBIE: Yeah big deal, get outta the street!


RYAN: Oh, sorry!


BRIDGET: We enjoy your work too!


RYAN: Y’know, Bridget, there’s something about this concrete jungle that always makes me want to… break into a song.




RYAN: (SINGING) Here in the city, the glorious city, anything can hap- AHHHHHHHHH! (GROWS ECHOEY)


BRIDGET: Oh, no, Ryan fell down an open manhole!




BRIDGET: Apparently, a very deep manhole! Somebody! Help!




RYAN: I’m ok!


–Theme Music–


BRIDGET: Welcome to Million Bazillion. I’m Bridget.


RYAN: (ECHOEY) I’m Ryan. And We Help Dollars Make More Sense. Let’s hear today’s question.


BRIDGET: Wait, are you sure you don’t want to climb out of the manhole first?


RYAN: (ECHOEY) No time! Here in the fast-paced city, you gotta be tough and roll with the punches. Play the question while I look for the ladder down here.


OLINA: “Hi, my name is Olina from Rochester, Minnesota. I am 9 years old. I want to know why kids can’t have jobs. I want a real job to buy stuff with my money.


RYAN: (ECHOEY) Olina, that is a great question, and I’m with you! Ahh, a rat just took my shoe!




BRIDGET: Yeah, what kid doesn’t wish they could be a little more independent, with money of their own to spend?


RYAN: Found the ladder!




RYAN: (VOICE LOSING ECHO) In fact, I think this is a great question. Why DON’T kids work? How come they get to spend their day at school having fun at recess and eating snacks and I have to… I mean grown-ups have to work? It’s about time someone put these loafers to work!

Ahhhh, ok made it to the top. Can I take a minute to freshen up and rinse this sewage off myself first?


BRIDGET: [SOME WRETCHING/GAGGING] Yeah, great idea. And we’ll answer “why can’t kids have jobs?” when we come back.


–Asking Random Kids NOT SO Random Questions–

ANNOUNCER: And now it’s time for asking random kids, some NOT SO random questions. Today’s question is: If you had your own business, what would you sell?


RANDOM KIDS: “Cookies, because they taste good.” “If I had my own company, it would be really cool to sell some video game memorabilia.” “I want to sell mac and cheese.” “Bookmarks, so that you don’t forget your page and what page you are on your book.” “A bunch and bunch of legos.” “If I had my own business, I would sell toys, because a lot of kids love toys. And then I’d be rich!”


ANNOUNCER: That was Roman in Michigan, Eliza in Maryland, Joe in Ohio, Emiliano and Matteo in California, and Natalia in Arizona. This has been asking kids NOT SO random questions.

Part 1:




RYAN: Ok, so we’re back. I washed up in a nearby fountain and picked up 500 pennies at the bottom. That’s five dollars. A money lesson right there! Today, we’re trying to find out why kids can’t have jobs! And If you ask me, it’s about time they get to work. If you have time to TikTok selfies, you have time to restock shelfies.


BRIDGET: Well, we’ll see about that. To answer this question right, we need to be specific about what we’re talking about.




BRIDGET: In some parts of the world, kids DO have jobs. Even in the United States, some kids can have them, depending on their age and where they live. But in general, people in America agree that kids can’t have jobs.


RYAN: But why? Oh! I know why! On a job, adults take coffee breaks and kids aren’t allowed to drink coffee cause it stunts their growth? And if all the kids got their growth stunted, then we would have no more basketball players! Or maybe the NBA would just have a bunch of really short players? Anyway, I think that’s the reason and I stand by it.


BRIDGET: That’s not the reason.


RYAN: Ok, well what’s your brilliant answer?


BRIDGET: If we’re really gonna get into it, we should probably talk about what jobs in America used to be like. And fair warning, some of the history is sad.


RYAN: That’s ok. I think I can handle it.


BRIDGET: I’m talking to the kids.


RYAN: Oh, of course.


BRIDGET: So here’s the deal. In this country, for a long time, people thought it was OK for kids to have jobs. See that factory across the street?


RYAN: Sure.





BRIDGET: Well, if you could have seen it a little over a hundred years ago, let’s say…1904…you would have seen kids working in that factory or on construction sites nearby, or selling things on this street. They did these jobs under really bad conditions.


RYAN: You mean, like no coffee breaks?


BRIDGET: No, worse.




BRIDGET: Like the jobs were dangerous, people got hurt and sick doing them. They’d work long days for very little money. Kids had to give up going to school and having fun so they could help their families afford basic stuff like food and a place to live.


RYAN: Wow, this is all really grim. Child labor looks a lot cuter in musicals.


BRIDGET: Today’s parents think a lot about making sure their kids have a fun childhood. That their kids learn what they need to be successful as adults. But back then, people didn’t often think about that stuff. They couldn’t. But workers back then, they weren’t happy with those conditions. They started to organize together to make work safer.


BRIDGET: One of the ideas that came out of that time was that kids shouldn’t work. They should go to school.




NEWSIE: Extra, extra! National Child Labor Committe formed! Read all about it!


RYAN: Hey, it’s a real-life newsie! He’s got the flat cap and wool vest and everything! He looks like Hary Styles going through a phase!


NEWSIE: Whaddya hear, whattya say?! My name’s Griff. Wanna buy a newspaper?


BRIDGET: Say, Griff, you’re a working kid here in 1904, selling newspapers on the street…tell us, how do you feel about working?


RYAN: You must love having a job, right?


NEWSIE: No! Of course not! Instead of throwing rocks and chasing a hoop with a stick, or doing whatever kids should be doing in 1904, I’m out here all day peddling these yellow rags! And for so little money!


RYAN: Yeah, but look at it this way, you get a free copy of the paper every day.


NEWSIE: I don’t even know how to read! Like I told ya! Y’know, we newsies actually went on strike in 1899 because the big newspaper bosses, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, weren’t paying us enough. And the conditions were baloney! I wonder how the world thinks of those big ol’ cheapskates 100 years later.


BRIDGET: …Well, Actually…Pulitzer had the biggest award in print journalism named after him.


RYAN: (NERVOUSLY)Yeah and Hearst…[QUICKLY]   Y’know, just watch the movie about him,  it’s pretty good.  ANYWAY….So, what’s this you say about the National Child Labor Committe? Do they put an end to child labor or what?


NEWSIE: I’m not gonna tell you the whole story, pal. You gotta buy the paper!


BRIDGET: I can answer this one. Spoiler alert: They don’t. This whole thing happened much slower than you’d think. It took till 1938 for federal law to make stricter rules about child labor.


NEWSIE: 1938? You’re saying I gotta do this job for another 34 years?


RYAN: Well you won’t working for 34 years, but yeah kids like you will be working for another 34 years. So, wait a minute, Bridget, are there people who are still alive in the 2020s who remember working in factories as kids?


BRIDGET: Oh for sure. They’d have to be over 90 years old, but there are some people who remember. It seems obvious to us now, but 100 years ago, not everyone agreed that kids shouldn’t work. But eventually, in the 1930s, they passed a law that said you had to be 16 or even 18. to work certain jobs.


NEWSIES: Must be nice.


RYAN: Don’t worry, Griff. The story of you and your hardworking newsie friends will one day be celebrated in a big Disney musical.


NEWSIE: What’s a Disney?


BRIDGET: Ok, well, we have to leave this imaginary 1904 and go back to the present. Thanks for your help with the podcast Griff!




RYAN: Uh Gotta go! For your troubles, here’s five dollars in pennies.




NEWSIE: Wow, thanks! Now I can pay rent for the month.


Extra extra! Podcasters From the Future Give Generous Donation to Handsome Young Newsie! Read all about it!






Part 2:





RYAN: Hey, we’re hosting here! We’re hosting here! OK, so we’ve been walking around the city, killing time before my big musical audition, talking about why kids don’t have jobs. But there’s still something I  don’t understand. If kids aren’t working, what should they be doing with all their time?




BRIDGET: Hear that? That’s a hint.


RYAN: Kids should be ringing very loud bells?


BRIDGET: No. School!


RYAN: Awww.


BRIDGET: When you think about it, school sort of is your job as a kid. It’s the one time in your life when you can learn about a lot of different things and just have fun, without having to worry about the things grown ups worry about. It’s YOU time!


RYAN: Yeah, grownups say things like that all the time, but if we’re being perfectly honest, a lot of kids out there think that school… drools. What if you’re a kid who KNOWS what you want to do, and you just want to start doing it?


BRIDGET: Like what, give me a f’rinstance.


RYAN: Like let’s say you know you want to be a veterinarian?


BRIDGET: Well, to be a veterinarian, you need to understand animal biology, which takes years to learn in school. And would you really want a little kid to operate on your cat?


RYAN: On Skimbleshanks? Never! My cat is my life. Ok, ok, but say, you don’t want a doctory or sciencey or lawyery job that takes, like, 10 years of college to get good at? What if you want to… draw pictures for living? You don’t need school for that.


BRIDGET: Well, we have someone who can tell us about that.


ANN SHEN: Hi I’m Ann and I’m an artist. I live in LA and I make art for a lot of big companies like Disney, Facebook, and Adobe. And I also write and illustrate books. I love to do this so much that I would do this even if it wasn’t my job. So it really helps that it is my job. A thing that I learned in elementary school that stays with me to this day, is when my first grade teacher really encouraged me to read whatever I enjoyed reading and not necessarily what I’m supposed to be reading. So I really loved reading Babysitters Club books even in first grade. And so she would get books for the classroom so that I would have more to read. I think the best part of being n school is getting to explore all types of different subjects that you didn’t know about. And getting introduced to them by different teachers and you peers and friends. That’s something you don’t get as much when you have a job and have a job to do. The best part of being in school is getting to explore and discover different things. And I think having that time and space to to do that without having to think about work is jsut the best part. You never know what things that you learned are going to be relevant later in your work.

RYAN: Wow, so it sounds like Ann got a lot out of her time in school. Both the art parts and non-art parts made her a better artist.


BRIDGET: Yeah, And here’s one more thing to keep in mind about education. Studies have shown that people who get college degrees will make MORE money in their lifetime than people who don’t.


RYAN: But I thought we learned that earning more money doesn’t mean you’re more successful?


BRIDGET: Oh, it definitely doesn’t. But if your goal is to make money so you can buy what you want, you might be better off waiting on getting a job and instead, focus on your–


RYAN: Wait, I know what you’re going to say. Education.


BRIDGET: Ding Ding Ding!


RYAN: Ok, hear that all you Junior Gordon Gecko weirdos!? Be cool, stay in school! But Bridget, why do some kids still have jobs?


BRIDGET: Um, well there are always exceptions. Like if your family has a business, you can help them with it. Like with a farm, or a restaurant…But what kids are you thinking of?


RYAN: Well, um, like those kid actors on that scary show I like, Weirder Stuff.


BRIDGET: You watch that show? I can’t handle it. Way too scary.


RYAN: Oh look! We happen to be right by the studio where they film it!


BRIDGET: Wow, seems awfully convenient to me.


RYAN: I know, let’s go inside!




BRIDGET: Wow, I can’t believe they just let us in here.


RYAN: Yeah, maybe if we hide here in the back of the studio, no one will see us. So, even though most kids don’t work in America anymore, all these kids are at work right now. They all showed up, learned their lines, and get a paycheck for the day.


BRIDGET: That’s true, entertainment is one area where exceptions are made for kids to work, but pay attention to how they work.




ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: (INTO BULLHORN) OK, quiet on the set! Our young actress is here. Time to roll another take!


RYAN: (WHISPER) Wow, look, it’s Molly Benny Beige! She’s my favorite.


DIRECTOR: And action!




KID ACTOR: The only way to unlock the Mind Monster’s portal is to use the magical key from the netherworld. Oh no, the MindMonster is right behind you. Ruuuuu-


DIRECTOR: And cut!


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Ok, our young actor here needs a break, bring in the snacks, bring in the tutor!


RYAN: What’s going on? She didn’t even finish her line.


BRIDGET: She has to take a break because there are a ton of rules for kid actors. They can only work for so many hours in a row. And remember how we said education is really important?


RYAN: Yeah?


BRIDGET: Well, they have to have a tutor on set so they don’t fall too behind in school. All these rules are meant to protect the kids, to make sure they get a chance to learn. And aren’t working too hard.


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: (INTO BULLHORN) OK, quiet on the set! Let’s roll another take!


DIRECTOR: Pick up where you left off… the second half of “run”,  and action!


KID ACTOR: … uuuuuuun!


DIRECTOR: And cut!


ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Ok, our young actor here needs another break, bring in the snacks, bring back the tutor!


RYAN: Alright, we should head out of here or I’m gonna be late to my audition. But first, all these breaks are making me want to take a break. Can we do a break with snacks, but no tutor?


BRIDGET: Sure, we’ll be right back after this.




Hi I’m Leanya. I’m 7 years old. I’m from the upper peninsula of Michigan. When does it rain money? When there is change in the weather.

Part 3:


RYAN: Ok, we made it to the theater in time. Just waiting for them to call my name for my big audition.


BRIDGET: Do you want some quiet time to study your lines?


RYAN: No, when I’m this nervous, I prefer to distract myself by talking about something else.


BRIDGET: Okay so, let’s go back to why Olina asked us this question in the first place, why can’t kids have jobs. Ryan, do you remember what she said?


RYAN: Yes, she wants to buy stuff with her own money. And I understand why she feels that way. I also want buy stuff with Olina, I mean my own money.


BRIDGET: But back to Olina. When you’re a kid, you might hear “no” a lot from your parents, including when it comes to buying stuff you want. If you have your own money, you can maybe have more say. Who wouldn’t want that?


RYAN:  So what do we tell Olina then?  “Just sit quietly in a chair, not working, until your 14th birthday”? That’s no kind of answer!


BRIDGET: Well, I would say…first, kids can find ways to earn money that don’t involve getting a job that takes up all of your time. Maybe Olina could talk to the grown ups in her life about that. And we might have some ideas at our website, marketplace.org, in the page for this episode.


RYAN: But then we should also remind her…right now, she does have a job. It’s going to school and learning and playing and experiencing new things. Figuring out what she likes and what she’s good at. Being a kid is a time when your brain is still elastic as a rubber band and absorbent as a sponge.  You can explore a million subjects: history, music, art, books, science, sports, fashion, languages, whatever. Or just stare at a tree for a long time! When was the last time you just stared at a tree, Bridget?


BRIDGET: It’s been a minute.


RYAN: Exactly! Kids, you gotta take advantage of that tree-staring time!


BRIDGET: If you’re listening to this show, you’re probably a kid who is interested in money. But earning it right now, this very minute, is less important than learning how to spend it and save it smartly.


RYAN: And if you’ve listened to us at all on this season of Million Bazillion, hopefully you’ve picked up on a larger, more important lesson: that I’m a great actor, sensational singer, and really should get the part today.


BRIDGET: That’s the larger lesson for this season?


RYAN: YES. But also, The reason to learn about money isn’t so that money becomes the center of your life. It’s so that it can be an easier part of your life. Some people are born with a lot of money and will always have a lot of money no matter how many mistakes they make with it. But, for the rest of us, you and me, we have to be smart. If you learn a little about money now, dealing with money stuff when you’re a grown up is going to be less scary and stressful. You got a whole life to live, kid, and there’s more to life than money, y’know.




CASTING DIRECTOR: Ryan. You’re up next.


RYAN: Yes! That’s me. Is it ok if my friend Bridget comes in with me?


CASTING DIRECTOR: Ummm, we only let parents or guardians sit in on the auditions.


RYAN: Well, Bridget’s sort of like my guardian when it comes to money advice.


BRIDGET: Aw, I didn’t know you felt that way. That’s nice to know.


CASTING DIRECTOR: Ok, as long as she’s your money guardian, fine.



CASTING DIRECTOR: Ok, so what part are you trying out for?


RYAN: The hero of the show, Joseph Pulitzer!


CASTING: Er, actually he’s the villain of the show!


RYAN: Oh no! What am I gonna do? I prepared my whole audition with Pulitzer as a nice guy!


BRIDGET: Ryan, just say all his lines in a mean voice!


RYAN: I can’t! It goes against my method training! Let me audition for one of the other parts! Any other part! Please! I can play one of the newsies!


BRIDGET: You think you can play a 12 year old newsie?


RYAN: Yes!  I’m a nimble man in my 40s who uses a daily moisturizer! Just watch me! Roll the music!




BRIDGET: You can do it! I believe in you, Ryan!


RYAN: Extra! Extra! Sing all about it? (SINGING)  Here in the city, we newsboys sell papers! We’re always working and – AHHHHHHHHH! (GROWS ECHOEY)


BRIDGET: Oh, Ryan fell down an open manhole on the stage! How did that get there?


CASTING DIRECTOR: Our set design is very realistic!






RYAN: I’m ok! I can finish the song from down here. (SINGS)  Please buy a paper, it costs just a penny– Ahhhh! A rat stole my other shoe!


–Theme Music-


BRIDGET: Alright everyone, that’s it for us today. Thanks for listening to Million Bazillion — where we help dollars make more sense!


RYAN: This is our last episode of the season and we are so grateful that you listened along! Keep sending us your questions and anything else on your mind at our website, marketplace dot org slash million.


BRIDGET: If you still want more Million Bazillion, here’s what you can do. You can sign up for the Million Bazillion Academy to get four weeks of money lessons that you do at your own pace. Sign up today at Marketplace.org/MBA.

RYAN: We bet you’re already subscribed to this show, thank you. But you can still leave us a positively glowing review with lots of emojis!

BRIDGET: Oh, and tell your friends about us!

RYAN: Million Bazillion is brought to you by Marketplace and American Public Media.

This episode was written and hosted by me,  Ryan Perez, and Bridget Bodnar, who’s the senior producer too.

BRIDGET: This episode was also produced by Marissa Cabrera.

Edited by Jasmine Romero and Sanden Totten

Sound designed by Chris Julin. Mixed by Bekah Wineman. Our theme music was created by Wonderly.


RYAN: Our digital producer is Tony Wagner. Donna Tam is the Director of On Demand at Marketplace.

Francesca Levy is the Executive Director of Digital. Neal Scarbrough is the VP and General Manager.

BRIDGET: In this episode, we are grateful for the voicing talents of Kimberly Adams, Samantha Fields, Julianne, Drew Jostad, Chris Julin, Sevian Nieves, and Bekah Wineman.

RYAN: And this whole season was made possible by the help and support of our family and friends, our Marketplace colleagues, and fans of Million Bazillion, like you!

BRIDGET: And special thanks to the people who provided the startup funding for Million Bazillion, and who continue to help keep us going: The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance, supporting Marketplace’s work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.

RYAN: To all the grown-ups listening right now – we hope that you and the kids in your life are having some good conversations about money thanks to Million Bazillion. Help us keep those conversations going. Donate today at marketplace.org/givemillion. Your support means a whole lot.



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