Sunday, March 14, 2010

Drinking and studying: they don't mix

This paper looks at an important topic: how students consumption of alcohol affects their academic performance. That there is a negative effect is a matter for concern although it is not very surpising.
Does Drinking Impair College Performance? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Approach
Mark L. Hoekstra,Scott Carrell,James West

This paper examines the effect of alcohol consumption on student achievement by exploiting the discontinuity in drinking at age 21 at a college in which the minimum legal drinking age is strictly enforced. We find that drinking causes significant reductions in academic performance, particularly for the highest-performing students. This suggests that the negative consequences of alcohol consumption extend beyond the narrow segment of the population at risk of more severe, low-frequency, outcomes. Thus, our results indicate policies that combat drinking—particularly binge drinking that occurs around age 21—may well have large positive effects that are broader than previously known.


Ronan L said...

Ahem, I'll start the ball rolling on the discussion.

There's a definite potential correlation between fallen-stars syndrome (high potential students taking to the booze) and a college's attitude to alcohol. "Eat ye not of the forbidden fruit" and all that.

Put another way, if we had perfect data, say, on France, would we find that alcohol diminishes academic achievement?

Kevin Denny said...

Ronan: not sure I understand (& I'm sober...) so you are saying where the college is more relaxed about alcohol that its more likely to be a problem?
I hadn't thought of the institutional attitude as being important: depends on where you get your alcohol I suppose. For students living on campuses there may be limited opportunities whereas if you are in a city campus (say TCD) there are no supply problems.
None of this explains why its particularly an issue for the top students: is it that they are sufficiently confident about their grades that they think they can "live a bit"?

Kevin Denny said...

As an aside, students are a relatively easily studied population. So its easy for us academics to study their lifestyles. I wonder what the effect of drinking is on doing research, lecturing, running universities?

Martin Ryan said...

"Binge drinking" is mentioned at the end of the abstract, but not in the title. I am reminded of a quote from the Ferriter book that Liam mentioned before. It comes from Kevin O'Higgins in the Dail in the 1920's - he answers the question of what is excessive drinking.

"That of course is a question of angles. What is excessive drinking? I do not take it that excessive drinking means that you fall over a man every five yards on your way home. If we are drinking beyond our resources there is excessive drinking. 17.5 million was spent across the counter on drink in the financial yeat 1925-6. Is that excessive drinking? Some people would say no. Some people would say very differently. At any rate I object to the criterion that drunkenness and drunkenness alone is to be the test of whether or not there is excessive drinking"

Kevin Denny said...

Hmm, somebody assassinated that guy? Maybe some public health specialist. His definition of binge drinking seems a bit odd to me.