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Peer Effects

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Atlanta Marriott Marquis, A701
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Amanda Griffith, Wake Forest University

Does the Girl Next Door Affect Your Academic Outcomes and Career Choices?

Rigissa Megalokonomou
University of Queensland
Sofoklis Goulas
Stanford University
Yi Zhang
University of Queensland


Gender peer effects are potentially important for optimally organizing schools and neighborhoods.
In this paper, we examine how the gender of classmates and neighbors affects a variety of high
school outcomes and choice of university major. Given that students are assigned to schools
based on proximity from their residential address, we define as neighbors all same-cohort peers
who attend any other school within a 1-mile radius of one’s school. To control for potentially
confounding unobserved characteristics of schools and neighborhoods that might be correlated
with peer gender composition, we exploit within-school and -neighborhood idiosyncratic variation
in gender composition share across consecutive cohorts in the 12th grade. Using data for the
universe of students in public schools in Greece between 2004 and 2009, we find that a higher
share of females in a school or neighborhood improves both genders’ subsequent scholastic
performance, increases their university matriculation rates, renders them more likely to enroll in
an academic university than a technical school, and affects their choice of university study. In
addition, we find that only females are more likely to enroll in STEM degrees and target more
lucrative occupations when they have more female peers in school or neighborhood. Based on
our back-of-the-envelope calculations, a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of females
in a school or neighborhood reduces the gender gap in STEM enrollments by 2% and 3%,
respectively. We also find that (1) neighborhood peer effects are as large as school peer effects,
and (2) the effects are nonlinear-namely, the effects are larger for school and neighborhood
cohorts with a large majority of female peers.

Inference with Returns to Schooling in the Presence of Peer Effects

Marcelo J. Moreira
Getulio Vargas Foundation
Geert Ridder
University of Southern California


This paper uses model symmetries in the instrumental variable (IV) regression to derive an
invariant test for the causal structural parameter. We apply the test to evaluate returns
to education in the presence of peer effects. Contrary to popular belief, we show there
exist model symmetries when there are cross-individual effects. Our result is consistent with the existing theory for the homoskedastic model, but in general the test uses information on the structural parameter beyond the Anderson-Rubin, score, and rank statistics. We show that, in the presence of peer effects, existing inference methods may be uninformative for returns to schooling. We then use the model symmetries and apply a Conditional Invariant Likelihood test for returns to schooling.

Peer Effects on Violence: Experimental Evidence in El Salvador

Lelys Ileana Dinarte
The World Bank | Development Research Group


This paper provides experimental evidence of the role of having different levels of violent peers in the context of an after-school program. By randomly assigning students to participate in the intervention with a set of similar or diverse peers in terms of violence, I measure effects of tracking on students’ behavioral, neurophysiological, and academic outcomes. Participants were between 10-16 years old and enrolled in public schools in El Salvador. Results indicate that integrating students with different propensities for violence is better than segregating them, for both highly and less violent children. Particularly, the intervention can have unintended effects on misbehavior and stress if highly violent students are segregated and treated separately from their less violent peers.

The Impact of School Tracking and Peer Quality on Student Achievement: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Thailand

Meradee Tangvatcharapong
Texas A&M University


A common educational practice around the world is to track students into classrooms based on ability. However, despite the popularity of tracking, relatively few papers directly identify the impact of being tracked into classrooms with higher or lower peer ability. This paper estimates the impact of being tracked into a classroom with higher ability peers by using data from public middle schools in Thailand, where students are tracked into classrooms based on a preliminary exam taken before 7th grade. Importantly, all teachers, curriculum, and textbooks are identical throughout classrooms. To distinguish the impact of peers from confounding factors due to selection, I apply a regression discontinuity design (RDD) that compares the academic outcomes of students just above and below the threshold. Results indicate that significant increases in peer quality do not improve student GPA. This suggests that any gains due to tracking, at least in Asian contexts similar to this, are likely due to factors other than peer quality, such as curriculum or teacher quality.

Within-School Diversity and Student-Level Socioeconomic Outcomes: Evidence from Chile

Juan Angel Matamala Gonzalez
University of California-Los Angeles
Mikhail Poyker
Columbia University


We exploit a natural experiment in the Chilean educational system to identify the causal effect of within-school exposure to ethnic diversity on students' attitudes, educational attainment, and earnings. We create unique and extremely detailed individual-level panel with information on various observables and socioeconomic outcomes for the universe of Chilean primary and high school students between 2002 and 2013. Using an event-study design, we show that diversity improves socioeconomic outcomes for children of ethnic groups, and has no negative impact on other children in the long-run.
JEL Classifications
  • I2 - Education and Research Institutions