Understanding Trends in Student Employment: How Determinants of Student Work Changed Before, During, and After the 2008 Recession


“Work to pay for school” is a common refrain. Paying for college through work earnings, however, has grown increasingly difficult due to rising college costs and stagnant wages. In this study, I examine how the relationship between college costs and student employment has changed over time. Specifically, I analyze data from four administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08; NPSAS:12; and NPSAS:16). I find that both the likelihood of employment and average weekly hours worked has declined between 2004 and 2016, never recovering from the 2008 recession. Using Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, semiparametric reweighting, and recentered influence functions, I find that the probability of a student working while in school has become more closely related to local unemployment rates over time, and less closely associated with college price.

Paper available upon request.

Last updated on 07/21/2021