02/01/2013 11:36 am ET

Minority Students Have More Stable Grades Despite Working Longer Hours

African American and Hispanic students are more likely to work longer hours when holding a job while attending school, compared to non-Hispanic white students with a job.

According to research from Jerald Bachman, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, however, minority students have more stable grades compared to non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans working the same hours.

“We know from previous research that for most students, working more than 15 hours a week is associated with various problems, including lower grades and substance use,” Bachman said to Psych Central. “However, what we’re finding with this new research is that this pattern does not seem to appear among some minority students, particularly those who come from a less advantaged background.” The study observed more than 600,000 students from public and private schools across the country, between the years 1991 and 2010.

While non-Hispanic white students (72 percent of 12th graders) were more likely to have jobs during the school year when compared to Hispanics (59 percent) and African Americans (57 percent), approximately 32 percent of Hispanics and African Americans with a job worked significantly longer hours—over 25 a week.

The more hours non-Hispanic white students worked, the more their grade point average (GPA) suffered; however, there was no such correlation found for minority students.

While researchers say the reason for the disparity is not yet known, it is possible job availability has something to do with it. Traditionally, African American and Hispanic students reside in poorer, urban neighborhoods, and since employment is more difficult to come by, they are more inclined to stick with a job and work whatever is required of them in order to succeed.

“Arguably, affluent kids have the least need to work during their student days,” said Bachman. “When they do work, they seem to suffer more in terms of grades and substance use. At least this is true for white and Asian-American students, whereas spending long hours on the job appears to be less harmful for African-American and Hispanic students.”

While GPAs may not suffer for Hispanics and African Americans, Bachman advises students avoid holding jobs that demand long hours, regardless of ethnicity. According to him, students working long hours during school year tend to develop behavioral problems, not only academic ones.

“Many kids who choose to work long hours already show evidence of some problems beforehand and may have a more ‘rebellious’ nature. But in our view, the evidence certainly does not rule out the possibility that the long hours of work add to the problems,” he said to Psych Central.

An additional finding indicated that minority students holding a job are less likely to engage in behaviors like smoking and underage drinking, compared to non-Hispanic white or Asian students working long hours.

Ideally, said Bachman, young adults attending school should work up to 15 hours a week, as indicated by the study data.

Published originally in VOXXI as Despite working longer hours, minority students' grades remain stable



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