New paper in the Review of Economics and Statistics journal claims that students these days study less than they did fifty years ago.
Using multiple datasets from different time periods, we document declines in academic time investment by full-time college students in the United States between 1961 and 2003. Full-time students allocated 40 hours per week toward class and studying in 1961, whereas by 2003 they were investing about 27 hours per week. Declines were extremely broad-based, and are not easily accounted for by framing effects, work or major choices, or compositional changes in students or schools. We conclude that there have been substantial changes over time in the quantity or manner of human capital production on college campuses.
Some possible hypotheses:
1. Technology: The bad version of this story is that the allure of the internet (Facebook, Twitter) has ruined students' ability to concentrate. The good version of this story is that students are now more efficient (who goes to the library anymore to dig up journal articles, or types papers on typewriters?). Babcock and Marks don't buy either of these stories, as you can see in the abstract.
2. Economy: Students often have to hold jobs now in order to pay for the rising cost of going to college. Relatedly, the demographics on college campuses is changing. The working poor make up a larger percentage of student bodies, which means the pressure to get a job while going to college is being created on two sides. Babcock and Marks don't buy this story either, however.
3. Psychology: Students these days - nay, our entire generation - are reportedly suffering from depression and stress more than past generations. It could also be that students these days just don't know how to study. Causal explanations for these two hypotheses are still open.
4. Pedagogy: Professors aren't challenging students as much anymore. Perhaps this is because they've become too busy to manage the increasing number of students they have to teach, or perhaps because students are more likely to complain when they receive a low grade. Another possibility is that course evaluations are playing a bigger role in tenure reviews, and as a result, there is an incentive for professors not to make their classes too demanding. Either would lead to grade inflation, which in turn means less studying time needed in order to earn that A.
Any reactions? The 27 hours per week roughly translates to 3-4 hours of studying per day. Does that sound about right to people here?
Original paper can be found on this NBER link