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Social Learning and Course Choice


  • Ann L. Owen

    () (Hamilton College)

  • Elizabeth J. Jensen

    () (Hamilton College)


We use a broad sample of students to examine the course selection process and find evidence of social learning from peers. We also find that as the number of times students solve the course selection problem increases, they rely less on social learning and more on their own experience, limiting the potential for herd behaviour. Our results give insight to instructors about the reasons why students may be in their classes and suggest that information about courses and help in evaluating this information is especially important for students early in their college careers.

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  • Ann L. Owen & Elizabeth J. Jensen, 2008. "Social Learning and Course Choice," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 7(1), pages 9-35.
  • Handle: RePEc:che:ireepp:v:7:y:2008:i:1:p:9-35

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gordon Winston & David Zimmerman, 2004. "Peer Effects in Higher Education," NBER Chapters,in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 395-424 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Allen, Todd W. & Carroll, Christopher D., 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 255-271, April.
    3. Arcidiacono, Peter & Nicholson, Sean, 2005. "Peer effects in medical school," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 327-350, February.
    4. Esther Duflo & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "The Role of Information and Social Interactions in Retirement Plan Decisions: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 815-842.
    5. Linda Datcher Loury, 1997. "The Gender Earnings Gap among College-Educated Workers," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(4), pages 580-593, July.
    6. Andrew M. Gill & Duane E. Leigh, 2000. "Community College Enrollment, College Major, and the Gender Wage Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(1), pages 163-181, October.
    7. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    8. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
    9. Eide, Eric & Waehrer, Geetha, 1998. "The Role of the Option Value of College Attendance in College Major Choice," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 73-82, February.
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