Effects of Part-Time Work on School Achievement During High School

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Birmingham]On: 14 November 2014, At: 02:15Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    The Journal of Educational ResearchPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vjer20

    Effects of Part-Time Work on School Achievement During HighSchoolKusum Singh a , Mido Chang a & Sandra Dika ba Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State Universityb University of Puerto RicoPublished online: 07 Aug 2010.

    To cite this article: Kusum Singh , Mido Chang & Sandra Dika (2007) Effects of Part-Time Work on School Achievement During HighSchool, The Journal of Educational Research, 101:1, 12-23, DOI: 10.3200/JOER.101.1.12-23

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/JOER.101.1.12-23

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    art-time employment is a common activity among youth and is perceived by many adolescents as an integral part of their identity. Approximately 80%

    of high school students work some time during high school, and about 40% of them work at any given time. According to the Current Population Survey (Bureau of Labor Sta-tistics, 2005), 37% of students between the ages of 16 and 19 work during the school months. Those numbers have stayed somewhat stable over the last few years (except for a slight decline in the last 2 years) after a sharp rise in the 1980s. Despite differences in work patterns, the phenom-enon of employment among school-aged youth cuts across social class, gender, and ethnicity.

    Students spend anywhere from a few hours to over 40 hr per week in part-time jobs. The estimates of number of adolescents who work at any given time vary because the reported numbers change as young people move in and out of work during the school year. However, a large number of students are employed during high school years and try to manage work and school obligations simultaneously. Students work a substantial number of hours on weekdays after school. Any activity that is so widespread and takes a relatively significant amount of time is likely to have an effect on various aspects of adolescents lives.

    The extensive practice of part-time work among high school students has led to a growing literature on the phenomenon of paid work during adolescence in the last 2 decades. Prevalent thinking among parents and educators seemed to be that work is good for youth. Traditionally, parents assumed that students involvement in work was valuable and had no negative effects on other aspects of their lives. In the last 2 decades, however, researchers have begun to examine critically the effects of employment on the educational and psychosocial development of youth. Although the body of knowledge on part-time work has grown substantially in the last decade, findings about the multiple effects of work on the school lives of students, including how work affects achievement, are inconsistent and debatable. Many researchers have studied the effects of part-time employment on the academic achievement as measured by grades or standardized test scores (e.g., Marsh, 1991; Quirk, Keith, & Quirk, 2002; Singh, 1998; Singh & Ozturk, 2000) and have found small-to-moderate negative effects on school outcomes, controlling for prior achievement. Some researchers have found either no effect or positive effect of work on school (Leventhal, Graber, & Brooks-Gunn, 2001; Mortimer 2003).

    In general, researchers have found small to moderate negative effects of work on achievement measures such as grades and test scores (Marsh & Kleitman, 2005). Despite substantial literature on work and school out-comes, only a few researchers have examined part-time work and school success, controlling for school engage-ment. Thus, when those researchers found that students who are involved in part-time work achieve at a lower level than students who do not work, one can argue that these students were less engaged in school before they started working. It is important that one disentangles the relationship of work and school success by control-ling for other related factors.

    Address correspondence to Kusum Singh, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Eductional Leadership & Policy Studies, 315 E. Egg-leston Hall (0302), Blacksburg, VA 24061. (E-mail:ksingh@vt.edu)

    Copyright 2007 Heldref Publications

    Effects of Part-Time Work on School Achievement During High School

    KUSUM SINGH SANDRA DIKAMIDO CHANG University of Puerto Rico Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

    ABSTRACT The authors explored the effects of part-time work on school achievement during high school. To esti-mate the true effects of part-time work on school grades, the authors included family background, students educational aspirations, and school engagement as controls. Although a substantial literature exists on the relationship of part-time work and school achievement, the findings are inconsistent. The authors hypothesized that work intensity, as measured by number of work hours per week during the school year, would produce a negative effect on achievement. Results indicate that work hours do have a negative relationship with students self-reported grades after controlling for family background, educational aspirations, and school-engagement. The authors also discuss practical implications of the findings.

    Keywords: adolescence, part-time work, school achievement

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  • Because school-engagement factors such as motivation, effort, and interest in learning are precursors to school achievement (Audas & Willms, 2001; Fredricks, Bluemen-feld, & Paris, 2004), it is important to control for their effects to understand the true relationship of part-time work to school achievement. If these school-success factors are not taken into consideration, the effect of part-time work on school performance will likely be overestimated. We examined the effect of part-time work on grades, controlling for prior and concurrent factors that lead to achievement. The concurrent factors are academic engage-ment, effort, and motivation, in addition to background factors; that is, family socioeconomic status, as well as parents and students educational aspirations.

    The primary question that we investigated was: What is the effect of part-time work as measured by the number of work hours per week during the school year on grades? To investigate the true effect of work on school achieve-ment, we controlled for other factors related to school success, such as family background, educational aspira-tions, school motivation, engagement in academic work, and academic effort. The main criticism reported in some of the earlier studies has been that researchers have not controlled for other important predictors of academic success or they have controlled for family factors but not school-based factors that influence success, such as aca-demic engagement and motivation. On the basis of earlier studies and zero-sum theory framework (Marsh, 1991) that time is limited and when increasing time is spent on work, less time is spent on academic work, affecting school performance, the study hypothesized a negative effect of work on grades. Thus, we controlled for (a) fam-ily background variables, (b) parents education, occupa-tion, and aspirations; (c) students educational aspirations (a strong predictor of individuals educational outcomes); and (d) school-engagement factors, such as engagement in academic work, academic effort, and lack of motivation or apathy toward school.

    Often researchers have argued that assessing the effect of part-time work on school outcomes is difficult because the students who are disengaged and academically apathetic are more likely to choose to work long hours. Thus, to deter-mine the true effect of part-time work on school grades, we ran a series of hierarchical regression models, controlling for different sets of variables: family, individual, and school-engagement variables in successive steps. Furthermore, we investigated differences among students on school engage-ment and school performance according to their working or nonworking status, and how much they worked. We con-ducted statistical analyses with a t test and analysis of vari-ance (ANOVA) to explore the differences between working and nonworking students on achievement-related variables (educational aspirations, lack of motivation, academic effort, academic engagement, and self-reported grades) and among working students on the basis of number of hours worked per week.

    In view of the national concern over the low achieve-ment of secondary students in the United States, it is critical that researchers examine the relationship of work intensity and school achievement. We proceed in three main sections: (a) literature review of the antecedents and consequences of part-time work, (b) Method, and (c) Results and Discussion. We conclude with the Summary, Conclusions, and Implications of this work.

    Part-Time Work: Antecedents and Consequences

    Although a growing body of literature exists on the effects of employment on social and psychological devel-opment of youth (e.g., drug use, alcohol use, personal and social decisions, peers), we focus on studies that examine the relationship of part-time work with educational out-comes. In recent studies, researchers have examined the relationship of part-time work to school achievement and other school-related outcomes. Using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study:1988 (NELS:88), Singh (1998) found a small negative effect of work hours on standardized achievement test scores and a larger nega-tive effect on grades. Singh and Ozturk (2000) explored the relationship between work intensity during high school and total coursework completed in science and mathemat-ics. They found a direct negative effect of intensity of part-time work on number of courses taken in mathematics and science and an indirect effect on mathematics and science achievement through course-taking patterns.

    In a recent study based on the first follow-up of NELS:88 data, Quirk, Keith, and Quirk (2002) found an overall negative effect of employment on high school grade-point average (GPA), controlling for the effects of family back-ground, previous achievement, gender, and ethnicity. The researchers found a significant decline in achievement scores when students worked more than 10 hr a week. Also, Marsh and Kleitman (2005) found that working dur-ing high school had negative effects on 15 of 23 Grade 12 and postsecondary outcomes, such as achievement, course work selection, educational and occupational aspirations, and college attendance, controlling for background and prior variables. Their results, based on NELS:88, a nation-ally representative data set, were consistent across ethnic-ity, gender, SES, ability levels, and type of work. Roisman (2002) reported gender differences for the effect of work on grades. In this study, boys school performance was more adversely affected by part-time work.

    In several cross-sectional studies, researchers found that work intensity was negatively correlated to atten-tion in class, effort in school, and attendance (Steinberg & Dornbusch, 1991; Steinberg, Greenberger, Garduque, & McAuliffe, 1982), whereas studies in which part-time work was related to time spent on homework and GPA had somewhat mixed results. Some researchers have reported no effects of work on school performance, whereas others have found small-to-moderate negative effects of intensity

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  • of work behavior on educational achievement. Steinberg, Fegley, and Dornbusch (1993) conducted a longitudinal study with a sample of approximately 1,800 high school sophomores and juniors to examine the relationship of part-time work with several different indexes of school engagement and performance. They reported less time spent on homework, more frequent class cutting, lower educational expectations, and more disengagement from school for students who work long hours.

    Findings on school engagement, on the whole, sug-gest that students with part-time jobs were less engaged in school before they were employed, but that part-time employment, especially that requiring longer than 20 hr each week, far worsened the problem of school disengage-ment. Other researchers found similar negative effects of work on school outcomes. Marsh (1991), in a longitudinal study using the High School & Beyond dataset, found a negative effect of intensity of part-time work on 17 of 22 school-outcome variables, after controlling for background and prior-achievement variables. Although research on the negative effects of part-time work on school-engagement variables were consistent, the results on GPA were mixed (Chaplin & Hannaway, 1996; DAmico, 1984; Mortimer, Finch, Ryu, Shanahan, & Call, 1993; Steinberg & Dorn-busch, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1982).

    In contrast to studies in which researchers found nega-tive effects of students working during the school year, a few researchers reported no effects of working on academic performance. The latter researchers found generally that the effect of work on GPA was negligible and that the effect of work intensity seemed to vary by grade level and...

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