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Should you compete or cooperate with your schoolmates?


  • Massimiliano Bratti
  • Daniele Checchi
  • Antonio Filippin


This paper presents empirical evidence from the Programme for International Student Assessment 2003 survey on the role of students' attitudes towards competition and cooperation in mathematical literacy achievement. While individual competitive attitudes are positively correlated with test scores, the reverse occurs when considering the aggregation of individual attitudes. Similarly, while individual cooperative attitudes exhibit a negative correlation with test scores, the opposite is true in the aggregate. We provide an interpretation of this 'fallacy of composition' based on public good production and incentives to free riding, which is prevented by social norms held valid in a small or homogenous group.

Suggested Citation

  • Massimiliano Bratti & Daniele Checchi & Antonio Filippin, 2011. "Should you compete or cooperate with your schoolmates?," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 275-289.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:edecon:v:19:y:2011:i:3:p:275-289 DOI: 10.1080/09645292.2011.585021

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2000. "Participation in Heterogeneous Communities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 847-904.
    2. Eric A. Hanushek & Ludger Wössmann, 2006. "Does Educational Tracking Affect Performance and Inequality? Differences- in-Differences Evidence Across Countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 63-76, March.
    3. Ammermüller, Andreas, 2005. "Educational Opportunities and the Role of Institutions," ZEW Discussion Papers 05-44, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    4. Ammermüller Andreas, 2005. "Educational Opportunities and the Role of Institutions," ROA Research Memorandum 004, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    5. Bettinger, Eric & Slonim, Robert, 2007. "Patience among children," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 343-363, February.
    6. Ludger Woesmann, 2003. "Schooling Resources, Educational Institutions and Student Performance: the International Evidence," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 65(2), pages 117-170, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard B. Freeman & Martina Viarengo, 2014. "School and family effects on educational outcomes across countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 29(79), pages 395-446, July.
    2. Hanushek, Eric A. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "The Economics of International Differences in Educational Achievement," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    3. Bigoni, Maria & Fort, Margherita & Nardotto, Mattia & Reggiani, Tommaso G., 2011. "Teams or Tournaments? A Field Experiment on Cooperation and Competition among University Students," IZA Discussion Papers 5844, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Bigoni Maria & Fort Margherita & Nardotto Mattia & Reggiani Tommaso G., 2015. "Cooperation or Competition? A Field Experiment on Non-monetary Learning Incentives," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 15(4), pages 1753-1792, October.
    5. Román Andrés Zárate, 2012. "Peer Effects, Cooperation and Competition in Human Capital Formation," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 009795, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

    More about this item


    cooperation; competition; PISA; student attitudes;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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