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Peer Effects and Pupil Attainment: Evidence from Secondary School Transition

Author

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  • Steve Gibbons
  • Shqiponja Telhaj

Abstract

It is a common belief that children will thrive if educated amongst better class and schoolmates. It is a belief that guides many parents in their choice of school, and has important implications for policy on school choice and organisation. Many studies have tried to measure this 'peer-group' effect, but the enterprise is plagued by conceptual and empirical difficulties. In this study, we use the population of state Secondary school pupils in England to tease out how pupil attainments at age 14 respond to differences in the prior, age-11 attainments of their current school grade peer-group. Data on home addresses and school attendance allow us to compare outcomes of children who live in the same street, or who attended the same Primary school up to age 11, but then move on to different Secondary schools with different peer-group quality. These 'peer-group' effects seem to exist, but they are small in magnitude - a 1 s.d. increase in peer-group prior attainments allows a pupil to improve their own score by barely 0.08 of a standard deviation. We tackle various gnarly empirical problems arising in regression models of pupil attainments that incorporate individual and group prior attainments as explanatory variables. Estimates from such models are seriously biased by transient components in prior pupil attainments, correlation between current and prior peer-group characteristics and by ability sorting into Secondary schooling. We address these issues by using teachers predictions as instruments for prior attainments, defining a pupil's current peer-group in terms of those school mates with whom he or she has had no contact in the past, and by predicting current peer-group attainments with the productivity of their origin Primary schools, measured by the gain in attainments of different cohorts between ages 7 and 11.

Suggested Citation

  • Steve Gibbons & Shqiponja Telhaj, 2006. "Peer Effects and Pupil Attainment: Evidence from Secondary School Transition," CEE Discussion Papers 0063, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:ceedps:0063
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Gibbons & Shqiponja Telhaj, 2007. "Are Schools Drifting Apart? Intake Stratification in English Secondary Schools," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 44(7), pages 1281-1305, June.
    2. Gibbons, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2008. "Urban density and pupil attainment," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 631-650, March.
    3. Nicole Schneeweis & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2007. "Peer effects in Austrian schools," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 387-409, May.
    4. Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2011. "Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 1-33, April.
    5. Dominique Goux & Eric Maurin, 2007. "Close Neighbours Matter: Neighbourhood Effects on Early Performance at School," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(523), pages 1193-1215, October.
    6. Sund, Krister, 2009. "Estimating peer effects in Swedish high school using school, teacher, and student fixed effects," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 329-336, June.
    7. Ammermüller, Andreas & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2006. "Peer Effects in European Primary Schools: Evidence from PIRLS," ZEW Discussion Papers 06-027, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    8. Marco Tonello, 2011. "Mechanisms of peer interactions between native and non-native students: rejection or integration?," Working Papers 2011/21, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    9. Chen, Xi & Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2011. "Peer effects, risk pooling, and status seeking: What explains gift spending escalation in rural China?," IFPRI discussion papers 1151, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    10. Foster, Gigi & Frijters, Paul, 2010. "Students' beliefs about peer effects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(3), pages 260-263, September.
    11. McNally, Sandra, 2010. "Evaluating education policies: the evidence from economic research," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 57973, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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