Surprise: Drinking Reduces Test Performance

Apparently college students who drink during the study period for final examinations don’t do as well on the exams. This is according to a paper recently released by the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Results show that drinking prior to and during final exam week causes a statistically and economically meaningful reduction in academic performance. The performance drop is of approximately the same magnitude as being assigned to a professor whose quality is one standard deviation below average.

Moreover, we find that these effects are largely driven by the highest-performing students. This suggests that the negative consequences of drinking are not limited to the narrow segment of the population at risk of more severe, low-frequency outcomes.

I am trying very hard to resist suggesting that the economists were themselves drunk when they wrote the research proposal but, seriously, America needed a study to demonstrate this?

Admittedly, the findings of this study do appear to be in contrast with those published in the April 2010 edition of Addiction. That Addiction study found that “intoxication in the evening did not affect students’ next day scores on academic tests requiring long-term memory, or on tests of recently learned material.”

I guess the mystery continues.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer