Abstract: Balancing the demands of employment and schooling is a challenging task for an increasing number of students who have to pay their way through college. However, flexible learning and working environments could play an important role in easing many of the frictions associated with performing both activities simultaneously. Using detailed data from gig workers enrolled in online college education, we analyze how labor supply and study efforts respond to changes in labor market conditions and college activities/tasks. Our findings indicate that average weekly college activities reduce weekly working hours by 1.7 hours, representing a “short run” opportunity cost of only $41 per week. We also show that study time is not particularly sensitive to changes in labor market conditions, where a 10% increase in average weekly pay reduces study hours by only 2%. Consistent with these results, we find that workers take advantage of their flexible schedules by changing their usual working hours when college activities are more demanding. Finally, we do not find adverse effects of work hours on academic performance in this context. Overall, the evidence suggests that combining flexible working and learning formats could constitute a suitable path for many (low-SES) students who work to afford an increasingly expensive college education.
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