Do Sports Build Character: Spectator Edition

December 23, 2011

Three economists at the University of Oregon have looked into the relationship between the success of a university’s athletics team and the academic performance of its students — those who do NOT play the sport, the spectators.  The relationship, they find, is negative for men: the better the sports team performs on the field, the worse the students perform in their courses.  The reason: increased alcohol consumption and partying.  Below is the abstract from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

“Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?”

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

NBER Working Paper No. 17677
Issued in December 2011
NBER Program(s):   ED   PE

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.

h/t: Tommy Bennett

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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1 Response to Do Sports Build Character: Spectator Edition

  1. Tom Smith says:

    I can certainly attest to positive attributes enhanced by playing “football” (soccer) at Earlham under Charlie Matlack. However, I was concerned and this post leads to some support for my concern with the spectators at some Earlham soccer, especially women’s soccer, games. The amount of derogatory comments about the opponents and the somewhat crude suggestive comments and behavior by mainly male spectators at a couple of games I attended a few years ago would show less than character building. I have no way of knowing what effect it had on grades.

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