IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Importance of Rank Position


  • Richard Murphy
  • Felix Weinhardt


We find an individual's rank within their reference group has effects on later objective outcomes. To evaluate the impact of local rank, we use a large administrative dataset tracking over two million students in England from primary through to secondary school. Academic rank within primary school has sizable, robust and significant effects on later achievement in secondary school, conditional on national test scores. Moreover we find boys gain four times more in later test scores from being top compared to girls. We provide evidence for a mechanism using matched survey data, which shows that rank affects an individual's self-concept. The paper discusses other potential channels but concludes that malleable non-cognitive skills such as confidence and belief in own ability are most likely to generate these results. We put forward a basic model where rank effects costs and effort allocation when faced with multiple tasks. We believe this is the first large-scale study to show large and robust effects of rank position on objective outcomes of that have consequences in the labour market.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2013. "The Importance of Rank Position," CEP Discussion Papers dp1241, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1241

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Scott E. Carrell & Marianne E. Page & James E. West, 2010. "Sex and Science: How Professor Gender Perpetuates the Gender Gap," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(3), pages 1101-1144.
    2. David Card & Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti & Emmanuel Saez, 2012. "Inequality at Work: The Effect of Peer Salaries on Job Satisfaction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2981-3003, October.
    3. Scott E. Carrell & Richard L. Fullerton & James E. West, 2009. "Does Your Cohort Matter? Measuring Peer Effects in College Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 439-464, July.
    4. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
    5. Verónica C. Frisancho Robles & Kala Krishna, 2012. "Affirmative Action in Higher Education in India: Targeting, Catch Up, and Mismatch," NBER Working Papers 17727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Wim Groot & Henriette Maassen Van Den Brink, 1999. "Overpayment and earnings satisfaction: an application of an ordered response Tobit Model," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(4), pages 235-238.
    7. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2007. "Teachers and Student Achievement in the Chicago Public High Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 95-135.
    8. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "The Black-White Test Score Gap Through Third Grade," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 249-281.
    9. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    10. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak, 2011. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters And Pilots," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 699-748.
    11. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2009. "Harming the best: How schools affect the black-white achievement gap," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(3), pages 366-393.
    12. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    13. Guimaraes, Paulo & Portugal, Pedro, 2009. "A Simple Feasible Alternative Procedure to Estimate Models with High-Dimensional Fixed Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 3935, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. 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.
    15. Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2006. "School Quality and the Black-White Achievement Gap," NBER Working Papers 12651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Simon Burgess & Brendon McConnell & Carol Propper & Deborah Wilson, 2004. "Girls Rock, Boys Roll: An Analysis of the Age 14-16 Gender Gap in English Schools," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 51(2), pages 209-229, May.
    17. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-750, December.
    18. Ilyana Kuziemko & Ryan W. Buell & Taly Reich & Michael I. Norton, 2011. ""Last-place Aversion": Evidence and Redistributive Implications," NBER Working Papers 17234, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Joshua D. Angrist & Susan M. Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2010. "Inputs and Impacts in Charter Schools: KIPP Lynn," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 239-243, May.
    20. Hanushek, Eric A, 1992. "The Trade-Off between Child Quantity and Quality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(1), pages 84-117, February.
    21. Rees, Albert, 1993. "The Role of Fairness in Wage Determination," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 243-252, January.
    22. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban Aucejo & Ken Spenner, 2012. "What happens after enrollment? An analysis of the time path of racial differences in GPA and major choice," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 1(1), pages 1-24, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Terrier, Camille, 2016. "Boys Lag Behind: How Teachers' Gender Biases Affect Student Achievement," IZA Discussion Papers 10343, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Luc Behaghel & Clément de Chaisemartin & Marc Gurgand, 2017. "Ready for Boarding? The Effects of a Boarding School for Disadvantaged Students," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 140-164, January.

    More about this item


    Rank; non-cognitive skills; peer effects;

    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
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1241. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.