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Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?


  • Jason M. Lindo
  • Isaac D. Swensen
  • Glen R. Waddell


We consider the relationship between collegiate-football success and non-athlete student performance. We find that the team's success significantly reduces male grades relative to female grades. This phenomenon is only present in fall quarters, which coincides with the football season. Using survey data, we find that males are more likely than females to increase alcohol consumption, decrease studying, and increase partying in response to the success of the team. Yet, females also report that their behavior is affected by athletic success, suggesting that their performance is likely impaired but that this effect is masked by the practice of grade curving.

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  • Jason M. Lindo & Isaac D. Swensen & Glen R. Waddell, 2011. "Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?," NBER Working Papers 17677, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17677
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel I. Rees & Kevin T. Schnepel, 2009. "College Football Games and Crime," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 10(1), pages 68-87, February.
    2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
    3. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144.
    4. repec:pit:wpaper:356 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Carrell, Scott E. & Hoekstra, Mark & West, James E., 2011. "Does drinking impair college performance? Evidence from a regression discontinuity approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1-2), pages 54-62, February.
    6. Jason M. Lindo & Nicholas J. Sanders & Philip Oreopoulos, 2010. "Ability, Gender, and Performance Standards: Evidence from Academic Probation," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 95-117, April.
    7. David Card & Gordon B. Dahl, 2011. "Family Violence and Football: The Effect of Unexpected Emotional Cues on Violent Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 103-143.
    8. Lindo, Jason M. & Swensen, Isaac D. & Waddell, Glen R., 2013. "Alcohol and student performance: Estimating the effect of legal access," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 22-32.
    9. Clotfelter,Charles T., 2011. "Big-Time Sports in American Universities," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107004344, May.
    10. Susan Dynarski, 2008. "Building the Stock of College-Educated Labor," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(3), pages 576-610.
    11. Foster, Gigi, 2006. "It's not your peers, and it's not your friends: Some progress toward understanding the educational peer effect mechanism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1455-1475, September.
    12. Stinebrickner, Ralph & Stinebrickner, T.R.Todd R., 2004. "Time-use and college outcomes," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 243-269.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lindo, Jason M. & Swensen, Isaac D. & Waddell, Glen R., 2013. "Alcohol and student performance: Estimating the effect of legal access," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 22-32.
    2. repec:aea:aejapp:v:10:y:2018:i:1:p:236-65 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:4:p:658-676 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Rhodes, M. Taylor, 2013. "Pigskin, Tailgating and Pollution: Estimating the Environmental Impacts of Sporting Events," UNCG Economics Working Papers 13-19, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics.
    5. Hernández-Julián, Rey & Rotthoff, Kurt W., 2014. "The impact of college football on academic achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 141-147.
    6. Ozkan Eren & Naci Mocan, 2016. "Emotional Judges and Unlucky Juveniles," NBER Working Papers 22611, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Doerrenberg, Philipp & Siegloch, Sebastian, 2014. "Is soccer good for you? The motivational impact of big sporting events on the unemployed," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(1), pages 66-69.
    8. Dustin R. White & Benjamin W. Cowan & Jadrian Wooten, 2017. "March Madness: NCAA Tournament Participation and College Alcohol Use," NBER Working Papers 23821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jason M. Lindo & Peter M. Siminski & Isaac D. Swensen, 2015. "College Party Culture and Sexual Assault," NBER Working Papers 21828, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. repec:eee:poleco:v:51:y:2018:i:c:p:93-106 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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