Who Has the Time? Community College Students’ Time-Use Response to Financial Incentives

Lisa Barrow, Cecilia Elena Rouse, Amanda McFarland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We evaluate the effect of performance-based scholarship programs for post-secondary students on student time use and effort and whether these effects are different for students we hypothesize may be more or less responsive to incentives. To do so, we administered a time-use survey as part of a randomized experiment in which community college students in New York City were randomly assigned to be eligible for a performance-based scholarship or to a control group that was only eligible for the standard financial aid. This paper contributes to the literature by attempting to get inside the “black box” of how students respond to a monetary incentive to improve their educational attainment. We find that students eligible for a scholarship devoted more time to educational activities, increased the quality of effort toward and engagement with their studies, and allocated less time to leisure. Additional analyses suggest that students who were plausibly more myopic (place less weight on future benefits) were more responsive to the incentives, but we find no evidence that students who are arguably more time constrained were less responsive to the incentives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-52
Number of pages18
JournalAtlantic Economic Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


  • D03
  • Educational investment
  • Financial aid
  • Higher education
  • I20
  • Incentives
  • J24
  • Time use


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