Does Part-time Work during High School Affect Academic Outcomes?

Date of Original Version



Working Paper

Abstract or Description

A majority of American teenagers work during high school, constituting a large time commitment that pulls teens’ attention away from family, friends, school, and community ties. The issue of whether the possible costs to the other parts of teens’ lives outweigh the benefits from working has attracted extensive research, but no consensus exists about the relationship of part-time work on academic outcomes. This study uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) from 1997 to examine the impact of working part-time on high school dropout rates and grade point average at age 17. After age 16, federal legislation no longer limits the hours or duties of child labor. However, child labor legislation across different states limits the number of hours that teenagers are allowed to work. By exploiting this variation, the study examines whether a teen’s hours of work during the age 16 school year has a statistically significant relationship to his or her performance at school. Average hours of work did not have a statistically significant relationship with academic outcomes when using instrumental variables compared to statistically significant results when using ordinary least squares (OLS). Due to the weakness of the first-stage relationships and large standard errors, I am not able to draw conclusions about the work-dropout relationship or the work-GPA relationship.