Work-Study Effects

In college they always used to tell us that the people on work study got better grades because they were forced to manage their time more carefully. Maybe not?

Jeffrey S. DeSimone, NBER Working Paper, The Impact of Employment during School on College Student Academic Performance,

From the abstract:

This paper estimates the effect of paid employment on grades of full-time, four-year students from four nationally representative cross sections of the Harvard College Alcohol Study administered during 1993-2001. The relationship could be causal in either direction and is likely contaminated by unobserved heterogeneity. Two-stage GMM regressions instrument for work hours using paternal schooling and being raised Jewish, which are hypothesized to reflect parental preferences towards education manifested in additional student financial support but not influence achievement conditional on maternal schooling, college and class. Extensive empirical testing supports the identifying assumptions of instrument strength and orthogonality. GMM results show that an additional weekly work hour reduces current year GPA by about 0.011 points, roughly five times more than the OLS coefficient but somewhat less than recent estimates. Effects are stable across specifications, time, gender, class and age, but vary by health status, maternal schooling, religious background and especially race/ethnicity.

From the conclusion:

… a 30-hour work week lowers the average grade by one mark, i.e. from A– to B+, compared with not participating in the labor market at all.

These results are consistent with what some college instructors regularly experience: students who blame class tardiness and absence, failure to submit assignments and poor exam performance on their employment obligations. However, the findings of this study suggest that the negative relationship between labor supply and grades is not simply attributable to less academically motivated students working long hours. In that case, the aforementioned hypothetical lackluster students would not necessarily perform better academically if they were prevented from working, which is simply an activity to which bad students devote more time than good students. Instead, students who spend longer hours in paid labor because of preferences or budget constraints related to their fathers’ schooling attainment and attitudes ultimately perform worse in school than they otherwise would.

Full text – PDF (216 K). Paper spotted via Eszter's Blog.

I wonder to what extent if any these effects are valid for law students — and especially to what extent it is age-related. (And, if we're going to put in special testing for the effect of college-student family stereotypes, why Jewish and not Asian?)

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6 Responses to Work-Study Effects

  1. elliottg says:

    You may want to indicate that the full-text download is not free.

  2. Michael says:

    It was free to me, from home, so I don’t think it requires and .edu to be free?

    How much did it attempt to charge?

  3. elliottg says:

    They want $5. I assume that you have a cookie that gives you free access as a subscriber.

  4. Michael says:

    Nope. I took a session cookie, but have no permanent ones.

    The session cookie is called “security_tickets” and has a number.

  5. Joe says:

    Did the study correlate the student’s age and the number of the student’s children to their grades? I had several law school classmates who had young diaper wearing children, and the number one ranked and number three ranked students in my law school class had four young children between them. They also both worked, number one as a CPA, number three as a high school teacher. My father was a third year medical student at the time of my birth. He graduated and practiced medicine for 25 years before his death. My feeling is that without more datapoints, the study may be meaningless

  6. Joe says:

    After the download:
    Apparently the study applies only to high school and undergraduate students.

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