Students of Color with Part-Time Jobs Do Better in School

January 25, 2013  |  

Having your kid work after school teaches him responsibility, but it turns out he may be learning a lot more. A new study from the American Psychological Association found that low-income black and Hispanic students, though less likely to have a part-time job than their white peers, did better in school than white students who worked.

Previous research on working students found that clocking in for more than 15 hours a week led to lower grades, smoking and drinking, but it seems that isn’t the case with the majority of black and Hispanic students. In this latest study, researchers studied 600,000 high school students between 1991 and 2010 from across the country and found that by the time students were in the 12th grade, 72 percent of white students had jobs versus 57 percent of black students, 59 percent of Hispanics and 53 percent Asian students. Though white students were the most likely to have jobs, black and Hispanic students were more likely to report working more than 25 hours during a week. Grades dropped dramatically for white and Asian students the more they worked but the same didn’t hold true for their black and Hispanic counterparts.

The study wasn’t able to give a concrete answer for the findings and are careful to point out that there isn’t a direct correlation between working and bad behavior and low grades. Students who choose to work long hours at a part-time job often have a history of rebellion or behavioral problems, though that isn’t the full story. But the black and Hispanic students from low-income neighborhoods who manage jobs with long hours may be a self-selecting group; because jobs are hard to come by in their neighborhoods, those that get them may already be the hard-working kids who want to do well in school.

The recommendation? Researchers suggest students avoid working during the school year but if they must, to keep their hours to 15 and under a week. But if high schoolers do get a job, they should be sure to tell their employers right away their college plans and say they hope to get a recommendation.

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