|Above copied from Huffington Post|
Extracurricular activities do not just help in college admissions. In fact, extracurricular activities help a student succeed in academics. Research shows that participating in performance arts/clubs, for instance, in middle school is correlated with better grades in ninth grade. On the other hand, playing sports correlates with self-esteem and valuing education.
Effects of Extracurricular Participation During Middle School on Academic Motivation and Achievement at Grade 9
The above research takes into account "propensity scores to minimize selection effects in nonexperimental studies". Students who are equally likely to participate in an extracurricular activity are grouped together so that any correlation between extracurricular activities and academic performance is not due to another factor. This is important because participation in extracurricular activities, as expected, correlates with race and socio-economic status. As noted in the study, Hispanics are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities compared to Whites. On the other hand, African Americans are as likely to be engaged in sports as Whites but not in the performance arts. Taking these factors out allows for finding a relationship, if there is any, between extracurricular activities and academic performance. Not doing so only leads to the familiar academic gaps due to race and socioeconomic status.
With propensity scores, the correlation becomes cleaner. Extracurricular activities are indeed correlated with academics. And since minorities and poor children participate less in these activities, this simply becomes one more channel for wealthy children to have advantage over others. Thus, the study concludes that disadvantaged students should be provided ample opportunities for extracurricular activities. This is one way to increase engagement in school, reduce dropouts, and temper the effects of poverty on education.