Employment During High School: Consequences for Students’ Grades in Reading and Mathematics

Warren, John, Paul LePore, and Robert Mare
Working paper no. 1996-23


In this paper we ask how employment during high school affects students’ grades in mathematics and reading courses. We argue that prior research has been inadequate in three important respects. First, too little attention has been paid to the operationalization of employment in empirical analyses. Second, researchers’ theoretical models of how employment during high school might affect grades have not corresponded to their empirical models of those effects. Third, no prior research has explicitly modeled the potentially reciprocal relationship between employment during high school and students’ grades.

We find that the relationship between employment during high school and students’ grades is vastly more complicated than previous research has acknowledged. There are both short- and long-term effects of employment on grades, and these effects may work in opposite directions. Furthermore, grades affect how much employed students work at the same time that employment affects grades. In addition, although the relationship between employment and grades is consistent across demographic groups, reading and mathematics grades are differentially affected by employment.