A study published in the Journal of Public Economics examines how leisure time can impact students’ effort and educational achievement by looking at the overlap of major soccer tournaments (the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship) with GCSE exams in England (GCSEs are high-stakes exams taken in the UK).
Using seven years of subject data on students in England, taken from the National Pupil Database, Robert Metcalfe and colleagues estimated the overall effect of a tournament by comparing within-student variation in performance during the exam period between tournament and non-tournament years.
- Overall, they found a negative average effect of the tournament on exam performance, as measured by whether students achieved a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects at GCSE.
- In tournament years, the odds of achieving the benchmark of a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects fell by 12%.
- For students who are likely to be very interested in soccer (defined as likely to be white, male, disadvantaged students), the impact is greater, with the odds of achieving the benchmark reduced by 28%.
This result is important, as this group is already the lowest performing, with only 21.3% achieving a grade C or higher in at least 5 subjects at GCSE in non-tournament years. The result is also consistent with previous studies which found that some students perform less well in their GCSEs in years when there is a major international soccer tournament taking place.
Source: Metcalfe, R., Burgess, S., & Proud, S. (2019). Students’ effort and educational achievement: Using the timing of the World Cup to vary the value of leisure. Journal of Public Economics, 172, 111–126.