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Academic peer effects with different group assignment policies : residential tracking versus random assignment

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  • Garlick, Robert

Abstract

This paper studies the relative academic performance of students tracked or randomly assigned to South African university dormitories. Tracked or streamed assignment creates dormitories where all students obtained similar scores on high school graduation examinations. Random assignment creates dormitories that are approximately representative of the population of students. Tracking lowers students'mean grades in their first year of university and increases the variance or inequality of grades. This result is driven by a large negative effect of tracking on low-scoring students'grades and a near-zero effect on high-scoring students'grades. Low-scoring students are more sensitive to changes in their peer group composition and their grades suffer if they live only with low-scoring peers. In this setting, residential tracking has undesirable efficiency (lower mean) and equity (higher variance) effects. The result isolates a pure peer effect of tracking, whereas classroom tracking studies identify a combination of peer effects and differences in teacher behavior across tracked and untracked classrooms. The negative pure peer effect of residential tracking suggests that classroom tracking may also have negative effects unless teachers are more effective in homogeneous classrooms. Random variation in peer group composition under random dormitory assignment also generates peer effects. Living with higher-scoring peers increases students'grades and the effect is larger for low-scoring students. This is consistent with the aggregate effects of tracking relative to random assignment. However, using peer effects estimated in randomly assigned groups to predict outcomes in tracked groups yields unreliable predictions. This illustrates a more general risk that peer effects estimated under one peer group assignment policy provide limited information about how peer effects might work with a different peer group assignment policy.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6787.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6787

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Related research

Keywords: Tertiary Education; Secondary Education; Teaching and Learning; Primary Education; Educational Sciences;

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References

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  1. Richard Arnott & John Rowse, 1982. "Peer Group Effects and Educational Attainment," Working Papers 497, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. Doug Miller & A. Colin Cameron & Jonah B. Gelbach, 2006. "Bootstrap-Based Improvements for Inference with Clustered Errors," Working Papers 621, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  3. Mary A. Burke & Tim R. Sass, 2008. "Classroom peer effects and student achievement," Working Papers 08-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  4. Weili Ding & Steven F. Lehrer, 2007. "Do Peers Affect Student Achievement in China's Secondary Schools?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 300-312, May.
  5. Marianne P. Bitler & Jonah B. Gelbach & Hilary W. Hoynes, 2014. "Can Variation in Subgroups' Average Treatment Effects Explain Treatment Effect Heterogeneity? Evidence from a Social Experiment," NBER Working Papers 20142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Becker, Gary S, 1973. "A Theory of Marriage: Part I," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 813-46, July-Aug..
  7. Scott E. Carrell & Bruce I. Sacerdote & James E. West, 2013. "From Natural Variation to Optimal Policy? The Importance of Endogenous Peer Group Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(3), pages 855-882, 05.
  8. Angrist, Joshua & Lang, Kevin, 2004. "Does School Integration Generate Peer Effects? Evidence from Boston's Metco Program," IZA Discussion Papers 976, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Cattaneo, Matias D., 2010. "Efficient semiparametric estimation of multi-valued treatment effects under ignorability," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 155(2), pages 138-154, April.
  10. Alberto Abadie, 2005. "Semiparametric Difference-in-Differences Estimators," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 1-19.
  11. Scott E. Carrell & Frederick V. Malmstrom & James E. West, 2008. "Peer Effects in Academic Cheating," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
  12. Bhattacharya, Debopam, 2009. "Inferring Optimal Peer Assignment From Experimental Data," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 104(486), pages 486-500.
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Cited by:
  1. Miquel Pellicer & Vimal Ranchhod, 2012. "Inequality Traps and Human Capital Accumulation in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 86, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

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