Monday, July 15, 2013

College kids do the darndest things

The NYT has made the startling discovery that college students sometimes fool around, even when they are not in a relationship, and often after consuming alcohol.

Now that's news! Move over National Enquirer!

And I am sure that nothing like that ever happened back when I was in college. No sir. Not one bit.

Perhaps equally entertaining is the author's attempt to instill in parents an odd combination of fear for their innocent children and regret that their own college lives did not feature as many drunken late night booty calls as some students enjoy today.

The careful reader might also note that the universities covered in the story are elite schools where many students are unlikely to stick around in the local area after graduation. I bet the story is different at a school like Western Michigan, where most students will stick around or, at most, move to Chicago. Lack of expected geographic mobility changes the benefit-cost calculus on relationships started in college, as does less exclusively career-focused life ambitions.

And it almost goes without saying, as it is the Times, that there is no random sample to be found, so the results of the writer's survey cannot be generalized in any meaningful way beyond the individuals at hand. Of course, I am sure that students willing to have extended conversations with a reporter about their drunken hookups are pretty close to a random sample. Aren't you?

In fact, if you read along farther, you discover that a large fraction of college students are not leading wild lives at college at all.  Though who knows how good these numbers are either, for the author makes no effort to document whether they come from a scientific survey or not. Still, 40 percent having intercourse with zero or one person during college (that's five years at risk for many students, in a target rich environment) is hardly the orgy the first part of the article makes college life out to be.

The newspaper of record, indeed.

Note to younger readers: the subject of the post is a play on this book by Art Linkletter.

Via instapundit.

1 comment:

asociologist.com said...

I can't speak for the Times, but Elizabeth Armstrong's work relies on more than convenience sampling. Her recent book with Laura Hamilton - "Paying for the Party" - followed an entire hall of first-year women at a flagship state university looking at both professional and social outcomes. Paula England, another sociologist, and Armstrong also have research that uses a large-scale survey of 21 different college campuses to study hook-ups (e.g. "Accounting for Women’s Orgasm and Sexual Enjoyment in College Hookups and Relationships"). It's quite likely the Times data comes from that same source. I'd recommend reading their work rather than the less-than-stellar framing in the NYT coverage. The evidence, as I understand it, does suggest an increase in hook-ups, but data from earlier periods are less than stellar when they exist at all - and an increase in hook-ups isn't an orgy by any means! Also, I don't believe Armstrong or England have yet addressed the selective/elite vs. less selective/regional school issue, but I think their data could speak to the question.