Panel Paper: Working Day and Night: Heterogeneous Effects of Working On Full-Time and Part-Time Students

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 2:45 PM
Carroll (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rajeev Darolia, University of Missouri

A growing number of students are working while in college and to a greater extent. Using nationally representative NLSY97 data, this essay examines the effect of working on grades and credit completion for undergraduate students in the United States. Working while in school can lead to better labor market outcomes for students and can help develop soft skills that lead to better academic outcomes. The complementary relationship between employment and academics may encourage policymakers to promote programs that combine vocational experiences with postsecondary education. These extra vocational burdens on students, however, may impair academic achievement and experience by substituting for time spent on studies and extracurricular activities. Determining the effects of working on academic performance is challenging. Hard-to-measure personal characteristics, such as motivation, intelligence, and work ethic, may lead to strong academic performance as well as participation in professional work. I use student-level fixed effects to control for permanent unobserved characteristics and analyze the relationship between financial need, working, and academic performance through an instrumental variables approach. I provide some of the first estimates of the effect of working on the academic performance of an understudied segment of students: those that attend school part-time.

I find some evidence that full-time students' grades and credit completion appear to be harmed by increasing work hours, but at a lower magnitude than in prior studies. I find little evidence of a detrimental impact of increasing hours on the academic performance of part-time students.