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The Effects of High School Peers' Gender on College Major, College Performance and Income


  • Massimo Anelli
  • Giovanni Peri


Using an originally constructed dataset that follows 30,000 Italian individuals from high school to the labor market, we analyze whether the gender composition of peers in high school affected their choice of college major, their academic performance and their labor market income. We exploit the within-school, cohort-by-cohort variation in the gender composition of high school classmates (peers), after controlling for school and teachers fixed effects. We find that male students graduating from classes with a large majority of male peers were more likely to choose "prevalently male" (PM) college majors (Economics, Business and Engineering). However, this impact was partially undone during college through attrition, worse academic performance and change in major. And in the long run it did not produce any difference in income or labor market outcomes. We do not find significant effects of the high school class gender composition on women. Our results are consistent with the fact that individuals are affected by the choice/pressure of the network of friends and with the observation that network size responds to class gender composition more for men than for women.

Suggested Citation

  • Massimo Anelli & Giovanni Peri, 2016. "The Effects of High School Peers' Gender on College Major, College Performance and Income," CESifo Working Paper Series 6014, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6014

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jackson, C. Kirabo, 2012. "Single-sex schools, student achievement, and course selection: Evidence from rule-based student assignments in Trinidad and Tobago," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 173-187.
    2. Hyunjoon Park & Jere Behrman & Jaesung Choi, 2013. "Causal Effects of Single-Sex Schools on College Entrance Exams and College Attendance: Random Assignment in Seoul High Schools," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 447-469, April.
    3. Alison L. Booth & Patrick Nolen, 2012. "Gender differences in risk behaviour: does nurture matter?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(558), pages 56-78, February.
    4. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
    5. Booth, Alison & Nolen, Patrick, 2012. "Choosing to compete: How different are girls and boys?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 542-555.
    6. Jonathan Guryan & Kory Kroft & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2009. "Peer Effects in the Workplace: Evidence from Random Groupings in Professional Golf Tournaments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 34-68, October.
    7. 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.
    8. Joseph G. Altonji & Erica Blom & Costas Meghir, 2012. "Heterogeneity in Human Capital Investments: High School Curriculum, College Major, and Careers," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 185-223, July.
    9. Booth, Alison L & Cardona Sosa, Lina & Nolen, Patrick, 2014. "Do Single-Sex Classes Affect Achievement? An Experiment in a Coeducational University," CEPR Discussion Papers 10221, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Scott E. Carrell & Mark L. Hoekstra, 2010. "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 211-228, January.
    11. Sherrilyn Billger, 2002. "Admitting men into a women's college: A natural experiment," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(7), pages 479-483.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schone, Pal & von Simson, Kristine & Strom, Marte, 2017. "Girls Helping Girls: The Impact of Female Peers on Grades and Educational Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 10586, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Leslie S. Stratton & Nabanita Datta Gupta & David Reimer & Anders Holm, 2017. "Modeling Enrollment in and Completion of Vocational Education: The Role of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills by Program Type," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20172, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
    3. Anelli, Massimo & Shih, Kevin Y. & Williams, Kevin, 2017. "Foreign Peer Effects and STEM Major Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 10743, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Mouganie, Pierre & Wang, Yaojing, 2017. "High Performing Peers and Female STEM Choices in School," MPRA Paper 81860, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    peer effects; high school; gender; networks; choice of college major; academic performance; wages;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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