Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Michael Wallace and Dr. Mary Fischer

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Campus Access


More females enroll in college than males and have been since around the late 1980s despite that males predominately made up the college student body for most of the twentieth century. The "gender reversal" in higher education has had many researchers testing a variety of factors that contribute to its persistence. In this study, I test how time spent on paid and unpaid labor throughout high school impacts college enrollment for males and females. My findings confirm those from previous research showing that paid labor has significant, negative effects for college enrollment. However, results presented in this thesis highlight the importance of unpaid labor—labor that is performed within the household and not paid by an employer—for higher education. While few scholars acknowledge this form of labor as part of the adolescent experience, I find that youths’ engagement in unpaid labor has even greater detrimental consequences to college enrollment than paid labor. Moreover, even though females take on more unpaid labor than males throughout high school, unpaid labor has the largest, negative effect on males’ college enrollment. Ultimately, I argue that both forms of labor take away from time and attention male and female students allocate towards educational endeavors; however, because of the gender expectations placed on females to engage in more unpaid, "feminine" labor, females learn to take on more work overall and try not to let such time constraints deter their enrollment in higher education.

Major Advisor

Dr. Simon Cheng