Tuesday, September 12, 2006

College Drinking and GPA: 4.0 or Fewer?

In 1995, Christopher Buckley gave a speech at the Yale Daily News banquet. Afterwards, he wrote an angry op-ed in The New York Times called "Bombed in New Haven." Said Buckley at the time, "We knew how to party in my day, too." But:

The scene that greeted me in the dining room at the New Haven Lawn Club was out of a putsch in a Munich beer hall, minus the brown shirts and funny salutes. The leaders were bellowing so loudly that you had to shout to converse with your dinner partner. At one table, a fifth of vodka was being passed around and glugged from. At another table, a woman was slumped over her boyfriend, unconscious. Well, they had been drinking since 5 in the afternoon. Apparently the trend these days is to "front-load," that is, go to a party before the event and get so tanked that you will feel no pain later on. Or be aware that there is a guest speaker.

Of course, college students are used to being lectured about how excessive drinking is risky to one's health. According to economists Michael Kremer and Dan Levy, though, it may also be dangerous for one's GPA.

Kremer and Levy examined how alcohol use among college students affects academic performance. In short, they asked: What happens to a student's GPA if they are randomly assigned to a roommate who drinks? Read the abstract, introduction, and conclusions (skip the technical mid-section) of Kremer and Levy's research paper to find out. (Note that the authors get at a deeper economic question in the paper: Do peers influence the way people form consumption preferences?)

1. What happens to the college GPAs of young men who share dorm rooms with frequent drinkers? Is the effect stronger for male students at the top (high high-school GPA) or bottom (relatively low high-school GPA) of the GPA distribution?

2. What happens to the college GPA of a young man who drank frequently in high school when he is assigned to a dorm room with a fellow drinker?

3. How does the GPA effect of rooming with a drinker play out over time? Do Kremer and Levy find that the effect on GPA is stronger in the first year of college or in the second or subsequent years?

4. Do the authors find any evidence that a drinking roommate affects the college GPAs of young women?

5. Suppose a university establishes substance-free housing. How will this affect GPAs of students who self-select into the substance-free dorm rooms? What types of students will end up rooming together in the not-so-substance free dorms? How might such segregation impact the average GPA at the university?

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  • At 7:39 PM, July 15, 2007, Blogger digdo said…

    I took an entire quarter off from partying to improve my GPA. I earned the exact same marks as I did when I was hitting the scene every night.

    GPA is based upon your ability to study and learn what is important for your professor and what is not.


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