Gallup Vault: Americans Hailed Entrepreneurship in Paper Boys
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.