I was just going through some work on the economics of higher education, and I came across this remarkable piece of scholarship* estimating the effect of studying on grades.  What a concept!

Of course, one would expect (or would hope to expect) that more studying results in higher grades, but how much studying and how much better? Can studying really make up for a lack of high school preparation or a deficit of intellect? Can smart kids really skate through?

Using data from Berea College, Ralph and Todd Stinebrickner provide a very, very nice framing reference for the relationship between incremental study time and the endowment of “book smarts” (measured by ACT scores):

[H]uman capital accumulation may be far from predetermined at the time of college entrance. For example, using results from our full sample, an increase in study-effort of one hour per day…is estimated to have the same effect on grades as a 5.21 point increase in ACT scores.

So while on the one hand hitting the books is certainly a plus, danger lurks around every video console:

In addition, the reduced form effect of being assigned a roommate with a video game is estimated to have the same effect on grades as a 3.88 point decrease in ACT scores.


For those looking for good examples of empirical work, this is a very high-quality example.  This seems to have “Senior Experience” written all over it.


* Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner, 2008. “The Causal Effect of Studying on Academic Performance,” Frontiers in Economic Analysis & Policy, Berkeley Electronic Press, vol. 8(1)