social theory midterm results: a behavioral approach
Eighty percent of success is showing up. – Woody Allen
I have a hypothesis, shared by many social scientists, that life course outcomes are highly correlated with self-discipline. If you are the kind of person who can follow the rules, you’ll probably do well. This is an average statement, of course. In certain contexts, rule breaking is wonderful, but life usually requires rule following and a measure of self-discipline.
To test this hypothesis, I conducted a simple statistical test with data from my social theory class (N=73). I collected two behavioral/discipline variables: did the students show up to two randomly selected classes and did students use their “free pass,” which allows them to skip a daily writing assignment. I then merged attendance, assignment completion, and midterm performance data.
- Skipping the daily writing assignment is *not* correlated with midterm performance, except for “extreme skipping.” A handful of students skipped four or more daily write ups, thus wildly exceeding the “free pass” rule. They score 19% less than the rest of the class.
- Attendance is correlated with midterm performance. Class skipping is associated with a 10.1% grade drop.
- In the OLS model with dummies for attendance on either day and skipping 1, 2, 3 and 4 (or more), the results are the same.
The R-squared? .27!!! Wow. Knowing nothing else about the students, like GPA, SAT, or SES, I can account for a lot of variance by just seeing if they show up and hand in assignments.