Saturday, December 20, 2008

Consuming college

This paper by Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks shows that study time at college has fallen dramatically in recent decades. Most of the time freed up via less studying has gone into leisure.

The pattern documented in this paper has important implications for how we think about the recent increase in the economic effects of college attendance (what is often though incorrectly called the "return to college"), which though large are likely understated given that, due to a lower time input, a college degree now likely represents less human capital than it used to.

These findings also have implications for the design of student loan and grant policies, admissions policies, grading policies, major requirements in individual departments and so on.

This paper from the BLS suggests that high school students are not working very hard, either.

In general, I am glad to see the study of time use data making a comeback in economics. Time use is one of the few economic optimization problems that each of us face every day.