Gallup Vault: Americans Hailed Entrepreneurship in Paper Boys

by Lydia Saad

Nine in 10 Americans told Gallup in 1942 that they would permit a son of
theirs who wanted to deliver newspapers to take the job. The same percentage
approved when the question hypothesized that their son was a "14-year-old
boy." And support remained high, at 79%, under the scenario that
the job required getting up at 6 a.m.

1942: Americans' Support for a Son Having a Paper Route Under Three Scenarios

Yes, would permit No, would not Unsure
% % %
If son wanted to deliver newspapers 90 7 3
If son was 14 90 7 3
If it required rising at 6 a.m. 79 14 7
Oct. 29-Nov. 3, 1942

George Gallup explained in his Dec. 24, 1942, news release that he tackled
this subject because of the "many years of discussion between newspaper
publishers and social workers over carrier boy problems." The problems
that were faced decades earlier by newsboys — children who sold newspapers
on city streets, rather than delivering them directly to homes — were
much more severe. But apparently, the paper delivery job wasn't exempt
from some public scrutiny.

Nevertheless, based on respondents' open-ended remarks in that poll,
Gallup noted that in most cases, "Interviewers found people approving
the carrier boy system because they think it makes the boy 'self-reliant
and dependable.'" According to Gallup, "The minority who
believe newspaper delivery work is harmful to a boy say that the work
is not always done in the best environment, that the boys lose too much
sleep if they are on a morning paper route, that it is a physical strain
to carry bundles and that the work keeps them from their studies."

One promoter of the job — an older man living in New York — recalled,
"I was a carrier-boy myself once. It did me a lot of good. I had
to face then in a small way nearly all the big problems I met later on."

Another respondent identified as a parent commented, "A boy who has
the stuff in him to get out and hustle when he's young nearly always
becomes successful in life."

The iconic "paperboy" — as well as the less common papergirl
— has gradually declined in the U.S. This is not because of labor laws
— it remains legal — but reportedly because of the demise of papers
published in the afternoon, when delivery boys and girls were most available
to work, as well as increased youth involvement in sports, changing demography,
technology and perhaps parental attitudes.

These data can be found in
Gallup Analytics.

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