Tuesday, August 10, 2004

NYTimes > Crucial Unpaid Internships Increasingly Separate the Haves From the Have-Nots

The New York Times > Washington > Crucial Unpaid Internships Increasingly Separate the Haves From the Have-Nots:
"Mr. Oldman said. 'It used to be that internships used to be a useful enhancement to one's r?sum?. Now it's universally perceived as an essential stepping stone to career success.'

But as internships rise in importance as critical milestones along the path to success, questions are emerging about whether they are creating a class system that discriminates against students from less affluent families who have to turn down unpaid internships to earn money for college expenses.

'It's something that really makes me nuts,' said Cokie Roberts, an ABC News correspondent who spoke out about the problem on Capitol Hill several weeks ago at a gathering of Congressional interns. 'By setting up unpaid internship programs, it seems to me that without completely recognizing it, it sets up a system where you are making it ever more difficult for people who don't have economic advantages to catch up.' "

Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University who has studied how people get ahead, said: "It moves the clock back when you need connections. It makes it doubly hard for social mobility and equal opportunity, because of the connections that it requires at an earlier age, the financial sacrifices and also the culture savoir-faire."

While half of internships nationwide are paid or have at least a small stipend, according to national surveys conducted by Vault, unpaid internships are concentrated in the most competitive fields, like politics, television and film.

"The more glamorous an internship, the less likely it is paid," Mr. Oldman said. "Washington in general has high-demand internships. In most cases they don't have to pay or they don't have to pay much."

The White House does not pay the hundred-plus interns who work there during the summer. The Supreme Court does not pay its undergraduate interns, who work 12 to 16 weeks, although in some cases it will give a $1,000 scholarship. And a vast majority of Congressional offices do not pay the 4,000 summer interns who pass through Capitol Hill, though a few, mostly on the Senate side, provide a limited stipend. Congressional offices once each received $3,000 to pay summer interns, but the money was eliminated by budget cuts in the 1990's.

And since Washington internships serve as a pipeline that brings policy makers into the nation's capital, some people fear that over the long term, internships will be another means, like the rising costs of college tuition, of squeezing voices from the working class and even the middle class out of high-level policy debates.

con·cept: NYTimes > Crucial Unpaid Internships Increasingly Separate the Haves From the Have-Nots