How to get good grades

by on April 27, 2007 at 4:23 pm in Education | Permalink

Reading, Writing, and S*x: The Effect of Losing Virginity on Academic Performance:

Controlling for a wide set of individual- and family-level observables
available in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health,
ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates show that sexually active
adolescents have grade point averages that are approximately 0.2 points
lower than virgins.  However, when information on the timing of
intercourse decisions is exploited and individual fixed effects are
included, the negative effect of sexual intercourse disappears for
females, but persists for males.  Taken together, the results of this
study suggest that while there may be adverse academic spillovers from
engaging in intercourse for some adolescents, previous studies’ estimates
are overstated due to unmeasured heterogeneity.

That is from economist Joseph J. Sabia.  Robin Hanson, my source, wrote:

My interpretation:  Teen boys who want sex out of teen girls have to
spend a lot of time in sports, fights, clubs, signaling their
attractiveness.  Teen girls who want sex just have to say
"yes", and the sex itself takes little time, especially given
that teenage boys are the partners. 

Michael Blowhard April 27, 2007 at 5:06 pm

I thought the reference to “academic spillovers”
was especially well-chosen. Or at least vivid.

Jenna April 27, 2007 at 5:42 pm

This post is upmost disturbing to me. As a college student there is no
way or reason as to how a person could catagorize a student of getting
grades by whether or not they are a virgin. Getting graded relies on how
much effort a person is willing to put into their school. Although it is
true that the average college students does not try to much to get all A’s
it is a fact that some people just dont have the drive to do their work.
Has ever occured to one that person could lazy just like half of the
people in the world. Those few that strive to excellent in college is a
great aspect to obtain. But it not right to say that there is a possible
chance they make good grades because they are a virgin or that they dont
have a social life.

adrian April 27, 2007 at 6:06 pm

‘Getting graded relies on how much effort a person is willing to put into their school.’

Well, and their IQ. Does this paper control for IQ?

B.S. April 27, 2007 at 6:59 pm

I would say that the same characteristics that make one likely to engage in sex make one likely to be lazy with respect to school work. The interesting question is just what are these characteristics?

ricpic April 27, 2007 at 7:25 pm

The miracle is that teenage boys aren’t completely overwhelmed by breasts and buttocks!

Ray G April 27, 2007 at 7:44 pm

“The miracle is that teenage boys aren’t completely overwhelmed by breasts and buttocks!”

They’re not? I surely wa. . wait a minute. . .

Really though, speaking from personal experience, having been one of the rowdier teens in school; passing up college scholarships – for art and athletics no less – for that self-destructive life style, it wasn’t the individual pursuit of a thing or past time, but it was the general mindset of party now, pay later. (I’m speaking of myself and a very large crowd that I ran with.)

Thus, any behavior that takes or allows the teen’s attention to center so intently on self-gratification by any means is going to result in certain negative outcomes. Or, more simply put, that much play means very little work.

So, I think one could find a great number of activities that would correspond to lower academic performance. Some having more effect than others. Sex is of course the most natural, and so has the widest appeal, and presumably the least detrimental effect as compared to other “illicit” behaviors.

Or maybe not, I didn’t do very well in high school, so I could be wrong.

happyjuggler0 April 27, 2007 at 8:44 pm

This smells like a correlation/causation problem to me.

There seems to be a higher variance for males than females for education and/or IQ, but to piss off Steve Sailer I’ll just use education as a proxy for both.

So, starting with the hypothesis that there are both more males with naturally high grades and more males with naturally lower grades, one could reasonably guess that the “brain”‘s would specialize in their comparitive advantage, namely academic work. Those on the left side of the curve would thus by default tend to be overrepresented in sports. Practice makes perfect, so this tends to be positively reinforcing for both groups, and they also tend to spend less time in the other pursuit.

Thus, boys with brains spend more time studying and paying attention in class, while those with less brains due the opposite. Similarly those with less brains spend more time studying sports, and practicing sports, both at school and at home or on the playground, while the brighter boys don’t practice as much,and thus don’t develop those skills as much.

Furthermore, school sports is to a large degree team sports, although there are individual sports like track, swimming, and tennis. Thus the ones with less brains wind up with more opportunities to make friends and quasi-friends. With more friends and quasi-friends they go to more parties, they meet more girls, and they lose their virginity earlier. The smarter boys may well also socialize in free moments in class as well, and this is also self reinforcing, and they also lose their virginity later at the margin as well as a result.

The girls on the other hand with less intellectual variance aren’t over or under represented in sports as a result, nor in paying attention in class to academic matters. The ones that get asked out on dates or asked to parties tend to be the better looking ones, subjectively defined, and thus their virginity isn’t correlated with brains or lack thereof.

To test which way cause and effect goes, i.e. whether or not the greater male variance is nature or nurture, or both thanks to feedback, one might need to isolate a large enough sample of smart male jocks and see where they fit in the hypotheses, and also correlate their relative academic performance results over time with those of the brainy non-athletes and the less brainy athletes. If they fit in as equally brainy when young but less brainy compared to the non-athlete brains and also progressively more brainy than the less brainy athletes when older, then it is feedback cycles at work involving both nature and nurture. If they correlate with only one or the other, then it is nature or nurture.

Pearl Yonick April 27, 2007 at 8:56 pm

I think Robin has it backwards: when I was a teenager sex lasted forever, now it’s always pretty fast.

happyjuggler0 April 27, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Jason Malloy,

That looks like an undertapped market for women freaking out because they are worried about getting married due to looks or being a social outcast of some sort. Namely, go to MIT or another brainy grad school and get up her nerve and ask the nerdiest ones out.

Alternatively she could ask them to tutor her, and then aggressively make it obvious she is available and likes him, with the aggressiveness getting more pogressive as time goes by without a date.

Ray G April 28, 2007 at 12:47 am

Charles Murray tarred and feathered himself with the common sense revelation that behavior was more important than IQ, but, as common sense would have it, there was more “good” behavior – or at least discretion – among those with higher IQ.

Now just recently, people are talking about how discipline is the key ingredient to success. Nothing new of course, but it just seems more palpable than behavior I suppose.

Myself April 28, 2007 at 4:15 am

< < Depending on the specific age and gender, an adolescent with an IQ of 100 was 1.5 to 5 times more likely to have had intercourse than a teen with a score of 120 or 130. Each additional point of IQ increased the odds of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% for females. But higher IQ had a similar relationship across the entire range of romantic/sexual interactions, decreasing the odds that teens had ever kissed or even held hands with a member of the opposite sex at each age. >>

This seems very reasonable empirically, and makes me feel a lot smarter right now, but there is no way this makes theoretical sense. What model would explain this? dumb kids would have a hard time pretending to be smart, but the smart kids shouldn’t have any problem acting dumb if that would get them laid.

The only rational explanation i can think of is that smart kids realize they should focus on more important things, while dumb kids are too short-sighted. But this is bullsh*t. everybody nows that the ultimate goal in life is having sex, as much as humanly possible. at least for guys. i mean, that’s why we buy sports cars, build bridges and fly to the moon: to impress girls – at least according to jerry seinfeld.

The only argument i would buy is that more intelligence implies more self-awareness, which implies more self-consciousness, which implies less sex. but this defies rationality big time: it means the smarter you are, the stupider you are.

adrian April 28, 2007 at 6:05 am

myself – that would be the thesis of ‘idiocracy’, smart people are too stupid to realize they should be having babies.

Mike April 28, 2007 at 9:28 am

“Paper #1240520242 that finds a correlation and makes up a nice little story why it would be a causal effect, when the chance that a 3rd omitted factor drives the correlations is…like…99%.”

brian April 28, 2007 at 10:14 am

Isn’t the answer obvious?

Nature selects against intelligence. Persons of lower intelligence engage in more sex, which means more procreative opportunity. And if intelligence is even remotely genetic, this almost guarantees the production of more low-intelligence people.

While the smart ones are trying to perfect virtual dating simulators.

Ray Cheung April 28, 2007 at 12:00 pm

p.s. its good to know panel data econometrics is being put to good use…

ken in south carolina April 28, 2007 at 12:48 pm

I teach 9th and 10th graders in an alternative school. Among other things, that means that I have very small classes. Earlier this year I had one class that was all boys. Most of them were disruptive and unmotivated academically. However, one of them was doing A and B level work and had an interest in the subject matter (world geography). At a certain point, an attractive girl was assigned to this class. Now, if any of these students are virgins, it is strictly an involuntary condition–one that they would actively deny. The girl already had a steady boyfriend and did not interact socially with any of the other students. However, the behavior and academic performance of the whole class took a dramatic nosedive. The former A and B student became a D and F student. Everyone else became more disruptive. After several weeks, the girl became an F student as well. In my experience, sex has a negative affect on academic performance, whether the students are virgins or not.

John Thompson April 28, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Hmmm…. I don’t know about the correlation between school success and sex. I barely graduated from high school (D average) and only got laid once (a charity screw, I believe). I had (for what its worth) a genius level I.Q. but was utterly uninterested in school and a complete dork with no self confidence. However, after I got out of high school I started coupling like a mad dog. The first few lays seemed to happen almost in spite of myself, but with each successive lay I gained more and more confidence and thus (evidently) more and more appealing to women, so it was a “virtuous” circle. By the time I finally decided to go to college ten years after high-school, I had been with well over 100 women (seriously–I gave up keeping track after that). Seven years later I had graduated from an Ivy League professional school with honors and was still screwing like it was going out of style. Now (ten years later) I almost never get laid, but that’s because the grand prize for my “high achievement” was a career where I have to work 12 goddamn hours a day. But at least I have a well-stocked past to fantasize about while I’m dating good old Rosie. I guess I’ve come full circle….

Gulf Coast Bandit April 29, 2007 at 1:10 am

one might need to isolate a large enough sample of smart male jocks and see where they fit in the hypotheses, and also correlate their relative academic performance results over time with those of the brainy non-athletes and the less brainy athletes.

I played soccer and carried a 4.0. And never got laid. Take that for what it’s worth.

Lee April 29, 2007 at 2:00 pm

“Teen girls who want sex just have to say “yes”, and the sex itself takes little time, especially given that teenage boys are the partners.”

I have a feeling that this would absolutely decimate those shaky young male egos, but… why don’t high school sex-ed programs spend more time pointing out that teenage boys are particularly inept sexual partners?

It seems the teen sex rate could be cut dramatically by (1) reducing the demand for sex with teenage boys by explaining to teenage girls that they’re better off waiting until their partners get older* and (2) teaching age-of-consent laws such that the teenage girls would not place themselves out as jailbait (if he’s willing to sleep with you at the cost of jail, then he’s probably too irrational or bad at rational thinking to be a good partner).

* While 15 year old inexperienced boys are likely often inept sexual partners, the same might also be true of 20 year old inexperienced men. Perhaps *someone* has to sleep with those boys before they are good in bed. However, hopefully either the teenage girls won’t realize this, or they’ll get caught up in a collective action problem as they all wait for someone else to sleep with the boys.

Paul R. Dorasil April 30, 2007 at 12:42 am

These results make sense in terms of game theory. The primary goal of adolescent males is to mate with as many desirable females as possible. Females are attracted to males who are of high social status because they desire to freeload off of that status. Therefore, non-virgin adolescent males have already obtained the sufficient level of social status required to attract desirable females. Virgin males, on the other hand, have much more incentive to pursue education as a means of achieving financial gain. Financial gain will likely improve the virgin male’s social status and thus increase his chances of mating with females.

This is similar to the “good debater syndrome† found in high school debate where females involved in high school forensics become attracted to successful male debaters. Once a male debater reaches the level where attractive females desire him, he has less incentive to improve further.

This is the law of diminishing returns in action. Once you have something, you stop trying as hard to get more of it.

Allison April 30, 2007 at 2:26 pm

I think everyone is trying much, much too hard to see direct causation between having sex and getting grades. I think it’s much more likely that they share a cause – the general culture one or another teen subscribes to. Wanting to be a “good kid” means certain things – no drugs, no sex, no breaking curfew, and getting good grades. A kid who feels those pressures (from mommy and daddy or from his peer group) feel them together. It’s the basis of an identity that scoops those things together. Now, the question of course is, why is it different for female students than male students? Part of what I want to know if how strongly correlated use of contraception affects this…because quite frankly, you’re removing a large number of girls who don’t use contraception, because they would have been “controlled for” by removing pregnant teens from the works. I think no one would be surprised to find that pregnant teen girls have lower grades than teen girls who have never been pregnant. If you’re biasing the female results towards those who engage in sexual activity without getting pregnant, you should bias the male results towards those who are not impregnating – although that’s a lot harder to test for, because he doesn’t always know and self-reporting for contraception is usually way high. So I think that’s one explination for the difference. My guess would be that “responsible” sexually active teens (those female students left in the study) would be more likely to maintain their grades than irresponsible ones – not just because of the results of sexual activity but because of the process that goes into making contraceptive decisions. She who buys condoms before the date is she who does not wait until the night before to study for the test.

I read in the Teen Risk Behavior Survey a few years ago that the first sexual experience for a woman is almost always her boyfriend’s idea. Similarly, with the first sexual experience for a young man, he reported that it was “his idea.” Does this basically just say that smart boys delay sexual activity, and girls as a group are just acquiesing at a similar rate across the “smart” board? That’s another explination.

But I think in this crowd, everyone just wants to assume that the reason they weren’t getting laid was because they were smart boys :) like that really makes you feel any better.

andi April 30, 2007 at 3:16 pm

I personally don’t see how this affects grades. I agree with Rocky. It’s how much you apply yourself.

Nanani May 2, 2007 at 1:18 am

Why does this kind of behaviour have to mean that “the smarter you are, the dumber you are”? It’s another expression of future time orientation, that’s all.

After all, if the more intelligent set are able to resist their instincts enough to not indulge in various other vices (no narcotics, less sweets and other junk food, less dangerous behaviour), why can’t they also resist the mating instinct? This extends up to the decision not to have children ever, not simply high school sexual activity.

The intelligent set can tell when their instincts are dictating their behaviour better than the less-so, and are thus better equipped to choose. Choosing against sex is simply something the average and below avereage intelligence set is less likely to be able to do.

EllenK May 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm

From my observations, the popular teens are pretty sexually active. This includes athletes as well as academics. The nature of high school relationships make studying and maintaining the status of the relationship mutually exclusive. Kids skip classes to hand out. They miss school to hang out. They are late to class, they forget to study and so on all in servicing the relationship. What used to be going steady is more like a torrid college romance these days. And what is sadder still is that the same message I heard when I was in high school still applies-Boys give love to get sex, girls give sex to get love. And since now we have a society where anything goes, having sex, getting pregnant and all that entails, is simply seen as normal. There used to be penalties, and when they were taken away, the consequences serve in their stead.

Joan November 15, 2007 at 6:40 am

My nephew is basically a bright kid, but when it comes to studies, he seems to learn as fast as possible but forgets it just as fast. I am a bit under tension as to how to get him to study and retain what he studies. He is 13 years of age. PLEASE HELP

My daughter too, she gets all mixed up with the formulas in maths when she is solving her test papers, when she comes home and redoes the sums she realizes that she messed up with the formulae or with the signs where algebra is concerned, and yes her spellings are terrible, in spite of making her read alot, she spells it correct but write it wrong, why any idea? PLEASE HELP

janjan February 25, 2008 at 1:03 am

how come sex be related to getting good grades? i think you better post concepts which are more practical than mentioning things that are beyond the topic

John September 15, 2008 at 8:30 pm

If anyone ACTUALLY wants good grades, see this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQwn0VBsC-8

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