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Unpaid internships: Do they perpetuate inequality?




Nora Barnett, an intern for Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sits next to amendments in the hearing room after a mark up hearing to resume the health care bill has been postponed on Capitol Hill July 29, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Nora Barnett, an intern for Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sits next to amendments in the hearing room after a mark up hearing to resume the health care bill has been postponed on Capitol Hill July 29, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Unpaid internships are all the rage nowadays for students trying to get work experience before looking for a paying job. It looks good on a resume and it provides experience and expertise to students who have neither. In a 2009 survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that more than three-quarters of responding employers preferred candidates “with the kind of relevant work experience gained through an internship.” Do unpaid internships only serve affluent youth who don’t need to make money from a summer job--helping to perpetuate the kind of socio-economic inequality that already exists in society? Or, is this kind of hands-on experience a useful tool in a tight economy?

Guest:

Daniel Akst, public policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College