Wide World of Sports

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

One of the fascinating little oddities of academic research is the amount of intellectual capital that the best and the brightest spend in order to catch up with the rest of us. “We consider the relationship between collegiate-football success and non-athlete student performance,” three economists from the University of Oregon write in a recent study. “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.”

The trio of economists—Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell—undertook this study for the National Bureau of Economic Research at Harvard. In addition to these three, a quintet of academic heavyweights was brought in to offer advice before the study was released.

“We thank Kasey Buckles, Charles Clotfelter, Ben Hansen, Dan Rees, Mark Hoekstra and seminar participants at Australia National University and University of Wollongong for beneficial comments,” the authors of the NBER study write. Of the five:

Hoekstra’s publications include:

  • “Is Poor Fitness Contagious? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Friends” (with Scott E. Carrell and James West) Journal of Public Economics 2011, 95 (7-8): 657-663 and
  • “Does Drinking Impair College Performance? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Approach” (with Scott E. Carrell and James West) Journal of Public Economics 2011, 95 (1-2): 54-62.

By the way, Clotfelter has done seminal work exploring the regressive nature of state lotteries and showing how they amount to little more than a tax on the poor, largely to fund government enterprises they do not benefit from. Hoekstra has also studied lotteries in “The Ticket to Easy Street? The Financial Consequences of Winning the Lottery” (with Scott Hankins and Paige Marta Skiba) Review of Economics and Statistics 2011, 93 (3): 961-969.

All of this high-priced talent put their considerable talents to work to determine what the average sports fan has learned over a lifetime of pursuing that hobby. Indeed most football fans can say as much before popping the first pull-tab.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org