The Interns Are Boosting the Economy

But scoffing at callow 20-somethings trying to break into the professional world ignores what these temporary employees — estimates range from 20,000 to 40,000 — bring to Washington (besides a willingness to do jobs no one else wants, such as sorting faxes).

Most important? Cash.

Stacey Price, executive director of the independent-business nonprofit group Think Local First D.C., says 68 cents of each dollar spent at an independent local business goes back to the community. If interns spend a dollar a day (or even a week), Price says, “we’re automatically putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy here in the summer just from interns.”

As someone who has been a summer intern in Washington D.C., I know that if all the interns decided to go on strike one summer, or go backpacking in Europe instead, productivity in Washington would come pretty much to a screeching halt. Lots of work is being done on the backs of summer interns. It’s also interesting to see that money interns are spending in Adams Morgan, or Georgetown, or wherever the youngs are hanging out now, is doing its work to boost the local economy. It’s even more interesting to me that a lot of these interns are unpaid, so the money they are bringing into the local economy is coming mostly from outside the city—from parents, or savings accounts, or from part-time jobs taken on to pay the bills. Thank your interns, everyone.

Also, we’d love to do an intern diaries series, so if you’ve had a particularly good (or bad) experience, we’d love to hear about it.

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

JitterBug (#1,972)

I keep reading in about all of these unpaid interns working in America and the UK and the whole concept is completely foreign to me (I’m in Australia). In my post grad course in publishing we were specifically advised against doing any unpaid work at all for a publisher because they were a business and we shouldn’t be giving our educated time away for free. Even high school kids get paid for any work experience they do here (something token like $5 a day).

But different systems, different standards, I know. It is definitely reinforcing a system where the poor and unprivileged get weeded out from certain occupations by not being able to afford to work for free (as has been discussed on here).

Megano! (#124)

Man, I am probably going to have to do another unpaid internship. :(

I have so many mixed feelings about interns. But: what does that “68 cents of every dollar” figure mean? Where do the other 32 cents go? Taxes? WHERE DO YOU THINK THOSE END UP?

ThatJenn (#916)

@stuffisthings I always assumed it meant that local businesses spend 68% of the money they take in at other local businesses, one way or another, rather than non-local businesses. Maybe I’m wrong?

Lily Rowan (#70)

@stuffisthings Parent companies — if you buy a Coke at your local deli, their supplier might be another local business, but some of the money ends up in Atlanta. Also taxes and whatever, I’m sure.

@ThatJenn Probably, but it’s a confusing way of putting it. Why not just use the multiplier, which should be greater than one?

Also, that means his group’s argument is that “Local businesses are good because they spend money at local businesses!” Which is circular by itself before you add the part about interns. “Interns are good because they spend money at local businesses which spend money at local businesses, which are good because they spend money at local businesses…” Which also presumes that because interns are unpaid they impose no costs on the city. Last I checked they use the Metro (often ineptly) and compete with permanent residents for low-cost housing, among other things. How many cents out of every dollar do small business owners spend paying to mop up vomit in Adams Morgan?

And also the biggest private employers around here are giant government contractors — are they considered local businesses? Or should we get rid of Raytheon and replace them with 1,000 cupcake shops? (Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Hmm…)

ThatJenn (#916)

@stuffisthings Agreed, it’s a very imprecise measure of the benefit. But the basic idea that interns come in with money mostly earned (or borrowed…) elsewhere and spend it in DC is true, which may or may not yield a net benefit.

Re: companies like Raytheon, very very few are actually based there anyway (Raytheon is MA-based, for instance, and probably half the rest are DE-based), so they wouldn’t count. But I’m betting they would count if they were based there, and that they’d drive that $0.68 figure way down.

My upbringing and college education were funded in that area by giant government contractors (semi-indirectly, but still), so I can’t be too judgey about them, but cupcakes sure are delicious. I just wish we had more local bookshops and fewer cupcake and smoothie shops near me. :(

@ThatJenn The stuffisthings budget plan: divert the entire DoD procurement budget to cupcakes. Good for DC, good for America.

Edit: (I actually hate cupcakes, but I prefer more cupcakes in the world if it means fewer bombs.)

Lily Rowan (#70)

Lily Rowan (#70)

(Is that legible? It says “It’ll be a great day when our day care centers have all the money they need and the navy has to hold a bake sale to buy battleships.” A 70s classic!)

cherrispryte (#19)

…. Can we restrict the interns to Georgetown and AdMo?

Not, like, the respectable “OMG the economy’s in the crapper and I need to do something and this is the best I can get” interns, but the “my daddy got me this, like, internship sort of thing so I’d have something to do in between volunteering at the Republican National Convention and my French immersion camp in Marseilles” sort of interns. And yes, the latter sort of human still exists, I promise.

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