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Should Student Employment Be Subsidized? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation

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  • Judith Scott-Clayton
  • Veronica Minaya

Abstract

Student employment subsidies are one of the largest types of federal employment subsidies, and one of the oldest forms of student aid. Yet it is unclear whether they help or harm students' long term outcomes. We present a framework that decomposes overall effects into a weighted average of effects for marginal and inframarginal workers. We then develop an application of propensity scores, which we call conditional-counterfactual matching, in which we estimate the overall impact, and the impact under two distinct counterfactuals: working at an unsubsidized job, or not working at all. Finally, we estimate the effects of the largest student employment subsidy program--Federal Work-Study (FWS)--for a broad range of participants and outcomes. Our results suggest that about half of FWS participants are inframarginal workers, for whom FWS reduces hours worked and improves academic outcomes, but has little impact on future employment. For students who would not have worked otherwise, the pattern of effects reverses. With the exception of first-year GPA, we find scant evidence of negative effects of FWS for any outcome or subgroup. However, positive effects are largest for lower-income and lower-SAT subgroups, suggesting there may be gains to improved targeting of funds.

Suggested Citation

  • Judith Scott-Clayton & Veronica Minaya, 2014. "Should Student Employment Be Subsidized? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation," NBER Working Papers 20329, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20329
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Peter Cappelli & Shinjae Won, 2016. "How You Pay Affects How You Do: Financial Aid Type and Student Performance in College," NBER Working Papers 22604, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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