Saturday, August 23, 2008

Parents Who Follow their Young-Adult Children to College

Thursday's (August 21) New York Times had an article entitled "Following the Kids to College." The article reports on what seems to be the latest phenomenon in college students' relationships to their parents -- namely, having out-of-state parents buy a home in the town of their children's college. I was interviewed a few months ago by the Times writer, and only learned today that the article had been published. The writer did a good job, in my view, of talking to a variety of experts and obtaining different perspectives. A brief quote of mine was used, featuring what perhaps could be a new contribution to the lexicon.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Change the Drinking Age?

Earlier this week, a major policy debate was touched off by a public letter from over 100 college and university presidents, advocating a "rethinking" of the quasi-national 21-year-old drinking age in the U.S. As noted in this article, "Technically, laws governing drinking age are left up to each state. However, all states adopted 21 as the minimum drinking age after Congress mandated in the mid 80's that any state that allowed drinking under 21 would lose ten percent of federal highway money."

Writing under the title, the Amethyst Initiative, the presidents take what could be called a "harm reduction" approach. Such a perspective argues that, as much as one might want people to refrain from a potentially dangerous behavior, people are going to do it anyway. Therefore, such behavior should be legalized to bring it out into the open and prevent the worst of the harms associated with the behavior. As the presidents' letter notes, "A culture of dangerous, clandestine 'binge-drinking' — often conducted off-campus — has developed."

Indeed, according to the Harvard School of Public Health's College Alcohol Study surveys from the 1990s and early 2000s, students younger than 21 drink at a similarly high level to their older-than-21 counterparts. More anecdotally, the Alexandra Robbins book Pledged talks about the extensive drinking -- and efforts to conceal that drinking from the university community -- among sorority members.

As an academic researcher of college drinking, I immediately sought to round up as much evidence bearing on the controversy as possible within a narrow time frame, study it, and present it on this blog, in an effort to further the debate.

Opposition is mounting quickly to the presidents' initiative, however. In fact, a story in yesterday's New York Times reports that two of the original participants have withdrawn their signatures (although some additional presidents have added theirs).

The Times article included quotes from opponents of the presidents' letter, including the following:

“Why would you take the one thing that has been tried in the last 30 years that has been shown to be most successful and throw that out the window and say, ‘I have a better idea?’ ” said Alexander C. Wagenaar, an epidemiologist at the College of Medicine at the University of Florida.

Wagenaar's views are stated in more depth on pages 78-80 of the book Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses, by Henry Wechsler and Bernice Wuethrich. Via an interview format, Wagenaar claims that, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the [Minimum Legal Drinking Age of 21] saved more than twenty thousand lives since the 1970s." He discusses some examples of inverse (negative) correlations, where in the 1970s, a state's lowering of the drinking age was associated with increases in teen alcohol fatalities, and vice-versa. Wagenaar characterizes the research as "incontrovertible evidence that the policy has had a significant effect on drinking rates and deaths."

Other scholars take a different view, however. In a 1999 article, Ruth Engs cites the idea of the "forbidden fruit," where the illegality of some act increases its attractiveness. She acknowledges the reduction over time in drinking-and-driving related problems, but questions how much of it can be attributed directly to the federal legislation that encouraged a uniform 21-year-old drinking age. Further, she cites statistics purporting to show that other indicia of problematic college-student drinking actually rose after passage of the legislation. Foreshadowing the Amethyst presidents' statement quoted above, Engs contends that:

This increase in abusive drinking behavior is due to "underground drinking" outside of adult supervision in student rooms and apartments where same-age individuals come together in the 1990s collegiate reincarnation of the speakeasy.

David Hanson's website also presents a lot of information on drinking-age policies (it was here that I learned of Engs's writings).

The debate over the legal drinking age is very likely to continue. By following the links included in the present write-up, as well as doing your own research, readers of this blog can contribute to the debate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Social Responsibility as Way for Companies to Entice New College Grads to Work for Them

This past weekend a CNN/Money Magazine article came out, reporting on companies' efforts to attract new college graduates (also known as Millenials or Generation Y) by demonstrating commitments to community service and environmental awareness. The article notes that:

For this generation, a company's community involvement often needs to be more than just talk, experts said. Nearly four in five Millennials say they want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society, according to a 2006 Cone survey. Some 68% said they would refuse to work for an employer that is not socially responsible.

The research firm alluded to in the quoted paragraph is Cone, Inc., some of whose research reports are available here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More Cultural References on EA

Jeff Arnett has just sent me some EA-related references in the media:

Here's a good pop culture quote for your website, from 27 year-old former tennis star Anna Kournikova, in [a July] issue of Sports Illustrated (link):

"Here's one thing I don't get. Why are people afraid of getting older? You feel wiser. You feel more mature. You feel like you know yourself better. You would trade that for softer skin? Not me!"

Also, have you heard the megahit song by Fergie, "Big Girls Don't Cry"? It includes this lyric:

The path that I'm walking
I must go alone
I must take my baby steps 'til I'm full grown...

I hope you know, I hope you know
That this has nothing to do with you
It's personal, myself and I
We've got some figuring out to do
And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
But I've gotta get a move on with my life
It's time to be a big girl now
And big girls don't cry.