Revisiting the Time Trade-Off Hypothesis: Work, Organized Activities, and Academics During College

Kaylin M. Greene, Jennifer L. Maggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


How adolescents spend their time has long-term implications for their educational, health, and labor market outcomes, yet surprisingly little research has explored the time use of students across days and semesters. The current study used longitudinal daily diary data from a sample of college students attending a large public university in the Northeastern US (n = 726, Mage = 18.4) that was followed for 14 days within each of seven semesters (for up to 98 diary days per student). The study had two primary aims. The first aim was to explore demographic correlates of employment time, organized activity time, and academic time. The second aim was to provide a rigorous test of the time trade-off hypothesis, which suggests that students will spend less time on academics when they spend more time on employment and extracurricular activities. The results demonstrated that time use varied by gender, parental education, and race/ethnicity. Furthermore, the results from multi-level models provided some support for the time trade-off hypothesis, although associations varied by the activity type and whether the day was a weekend. More time spent on employment was linked to less time spent on academics across days and semesters whereas organized activities were associated with less time on academics at the daily level only. The negative associations between employment and academics were most pronounced on weekdays. These results suggest that students may balance certain activities across days, whereas other activities may be in competition over longer time frames (i.e., semesters).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1623-1637
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 9 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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