How the Recession Has Hit College Students Seeking Jobs on the Side

Just as the Great Recession prompted an enormous inflow of students into higher education, the economic downturn also dealt a blow to their ability to defray their expenses by holding a job on the side. According to a working paper published today by the National Bureau of Economic Research, traditional-age college students were putting in an average of eight hours per week in 2009, a sharp drop from the 11 hours per week of work that was the average in 2000.

The paper, by Judith E. Scott-Clayton, an assistant professor of economics and education at Teachers College at Columbia University, is largely a review of working patterns since 1970 among the more than half of college students who work, and efforts to tie those patterns to factors such as tuition, financial aid, overall economic conditions, and the availability of credit and of Federal Work-Study funds.

Ms. Scott-Clayton, an expert on student aid, concludes that “no single factor” explains all the patterns, and the importance of each factor has “shifted over time.” But with tuition soaring, she writes, the availability of financial aid will have a major influence on student employment once an economic recovery takes hold.

That could also reverse the unprecedented situation in which, “for the first time ever,” college-age high-school graduates in 2009 “were more likely” to go to college and not work than to work and not go to college.

Correction (1/17, 10:59 a.m.): This post originally reported incorrectly the paper’s findings about the decline in the number of hours worked by college students from 2000 to 2009. The decline was from 11 hours per week, not 22 hours per week, to eight hours per week. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

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