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What Explains Trends in Labor Supply Among U.S. Undergraduates, 1970-2009?

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  • Judith Scott-Clayton

Abstract

Recent cohorts of college enrollees are more likely to work, and work substantially more, than those of the past. October CPS data reveal that average labor supply among 18 to 22-year-old full-time undergraduates nearly doubled between 1970 and 2000, rising from 6 hours to 11 hours per week. In 2000 over half of these "traditional" college students were working for pay in the reference week, and the average working student worked 22 hours per week. After 2000, labor supply leveled off and then fell abruptly in the wake of the Great Recession to an average of 8 hours per week in 2009. This paper considers several explanations for the long-term trend of rising employment--including compositional change and rising tuition costs--and considers whether the upward trend is likely to resume when economic conditions improve.

Suggested Citation

  • Judith Scott-Clayton, 2012. "What Explains Trends in Labor Supply Among U.S. Undergraduates, 1970-2009?," NBER Working Papers 17744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17744
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    1. Sarah Turner, 2004. "Going to College and Finishing College.Explaining Different Educational Outcomes," NBER Chapters,in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 13-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Bound, John & Turner, Sarah, 2007. "Cohort crowding: How resources affect collegiate attainment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(5-6), pages 877-899, June.
    6. Charlene Kalenkoski & Sabrina Pabilonia, 2010. "Parental transfers, student achievement, and the labor supply of college students," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(2), pages 469-496, March.
    7. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2004. "College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number hoxb04-1.
    8. John Bound & Michael F. Lovenheim & Sarah Turner, 2012. "Increasing Time to Baccalaureate Degree in the United States," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 375-424, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kurlaender, Michal & Jackson, Jacob & Howell, Jessica S. & Grodsky, Eric, 2014. "College course scarcity and time to degree," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 24-39.
    2. Scott-Clayton, Judith & Minaya, Veronica, 2016. "Should student employment be subsidized? Conditional counterfactuals and the outcomes of work-study participation," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 1-18.
    3. Adam M. Lavecchia & Heidi Liu & Philip Oreopoulos, 2014. "Behavioral Economics of Education: Progress and Possibilities," NBER Working Papers 20609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Darolia, Rajeev, 2014. "Working (and studying) day and night: Heterogeneous effects of working on the academic performance of full-time and part-time students," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 38-50.
    5. Jeffrey T. Denning, 2017. "Born Under a Lucky Star: Financial Aid, College Completion, Labor Supply, and Credit Constraints," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 17-267, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    6. Rajeev Darolia, 2015. "Income-Tested College Financial Aid and Labor Disincentives," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 15-248, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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