By Abby Mergenmeier
Cavalier Daily, U. Virginia
(UWIRE)—The number of undergraduate students with jobs has decreased significantly since the 1970s, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Judith E. Scott-Clayton, assistant professor of economics and education at the Teachers College of Columbia U., conducted the survey by collecting data from the October Current Population Survey, a monthly survey which provides information about employment, unemployment, and other characteristics of the population. This survey is conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are benefits for a student who works while in college. Scott-Clayton identified three major periods which define trends in the number of undergraduate student employees in the United States. The first period was from the 1970s to 2000, during which the average number of hours worked increased from six to 11 hours each week. Federal work-study programs, as well as rising tuition and credit constraints also grew during this time period, which explains why the number of undergraduate work hours nearly doubled.
The second major period Scott-Clayton identified occurred from 2000 to 2008, during which the number of hours remained stable, and then peaked at an average of 22 hours a week. Finally, this number dropped to only eight hours a week in 2009, marking the third and final period.
The recent decline in number of student work hours is closely related to the decline in available jobs, not decisions on the part of students, Scott-Clayton wrote in her report. She also found that now, more 18-to-22-year-olds were in college and not working, rather than working and not going to college.
The recent decline in number of student work hours is closely related to the decline in available jobs. In the study, many student aid officials stated that there are benefits for a student who works while in college, but these advantages begin to disappear the more the student works.
"If students work less, they may be able to take more courses and/or study harder. One concern is that if students work too much, they will end up taking more years to finish a degree," Scott-Clayton said in an email. "While the money from work may help in the short term it may be counterproductive if it means students and their families have to come up with a fifth or sixth year of tuition fees."
It is unclear whether the time students save by working less actually translates into more hours spent studying. "This is certainly one hypothesis, but I do not have any data on recent trends in study time," Scott-Clayton said.