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Ability Peer Effects in University: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Listed author(s):
  • Adam S. Booij
  • Edwin Leuven
  • Hessel Oosterbeek

This article estimates peer effects originating from the ability composition of tutorial groups for undergraduate students in economics. We manipulated the composition of groups to achieve a wide range of support, and assigned students—conditional on their prior ability—randomly to these groups. The data support a specification in which the impact of group composition on achievement is captured by the mean and standard deviation of peers’ prior ability, their interaction, and interactions with students’ own prior ability. When we assess the aggregate implications of these peer effects regressions for group assignment, we find that low- and medium-ability students gain on an average 0.19 SD units of achievement by switching from ability mixing to three-way tracking. Their dropout rate is reduced by 12 percentage points (relative to a mean of 0.6). High-ability students are unaffected. Analysis of survey data indicates that in tracked groups, low-ability students have more positive interactions with other students, and are more involved. We find no evidence that teachers adjust their teaching to the composition of groups.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdw045
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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Review of Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 84 (2017)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 547-578

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Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:84:y:2017:i:2:p:547-578.
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  1. Andreas Ammermueller & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2009. "Peer Effects in European Primary Schools: Evidence from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 315-348, 07.
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  8. 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.
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  12. Angrist, Joshua D., 2014. "The perils of peer effects," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 98-108.
  13. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
  14. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704.
  15. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Victor Lavy & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2012. "The Good, the Bad, and the Average: Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 367-414.
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