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Persistent Classmates: How Familiarity with Peers Protects from Disruptive School Transitions


  • Son Thierry Ly

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

  • Arnaud Riegert

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics, INSEE - Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques - INSEE)


This paper investigates the effect of classmates' characteristics on students' achievement in high school, exploiting natural experiments occuring sporadically in French high schools. High school principals do not know their first-year students at the time they assign them to classes, so they do the allocation using only a limited set of information available on their registration files. In some rare cases, they have to assign to separate classes two or more students who look nearly identical, according to the information they observe in their files. We provide strong evidence suggesting that such first-year students are randomly assigned to their classes. When using these quasi-experiments to investigate the role of several classmates' characteristics, we find an important, positive effect of assignment with more persistent classmates, i.e. classmates who were already in the freshman's class before high school. We provide strong evidence that this result derives from the benefit of familiarity with peers, rather than from some unobserved ability characteristics of these classmates. The magnitude of the estimates suggests that grouping low-achieving freshmen who know each other could decrease their current repetition rate by around 13~percent, and raise their graduation rate by the same amount.

Suggested Citation

  • Son Thierry Ly & Arnaud Riegert, 2014. "Persistent Classmates: How Familiarity with Peers Protects from Disruptive School Transitions," PSE Working Papers halshs-00842265, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00842265
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1191-1230, September.
    2. Sergio Currarini & Matthew O. Jackson & Paolo Pin, 2009. "An Economic Model of Friendship: Homophily, Minorities, and Segregation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(4), pages 1003-1045, July.
    3. Timothy J. Halliday & Sally Kwak, 2012. "What is a peer? The role of network definitions in estimation of endogenous peer effects," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 289-302, January.
    4. Schwerdt, Guido & West, Martin R., 2013. "The impact of alternative grade configurations on student outcomes through middle and high school," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 308-326.
    5. Donald B. Rubin, 1977. "Assignment to Treatment Group on the Basis of a Covariate," Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, , vol. 2(1), pages 1-26, March.
    6. Victor Lavy & Edith Sand, 2012. "The Friends Factor: How Students' Social Networks Affect Their Academic Achievement and Well-Being?," NBER Working Papers 18430, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Mora, Toni & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2011. "Peer effects on high school aspirations: Evidence from a sample of close and not-so-close friends," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 575-581, August.
    9. Foster, Gigi, 2006. "It's not your peers, and it's not your friends: Some progress toward understanding the educational peer effect mechanism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1455-1475, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gibbons, Stephen & Silva, Olmo & Weinhardt, Felix, 2014. "Neighbourhood Turnover and Teenage Attainment," IZA Discussion Papers 8381, 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.
    3. Goux, Dominique & Gurgand, Marc & Maurin, Eric, 2014. "Adjusting Your Dreams? The Effect of School and Peers on Dropout Behaviour," IZA Discussion Papers 7948, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:oup:jeurec:v:15:y:2017:i:4:p:746-783. is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Friendships; Social Networks; High schools; Class composition; Peer effects;

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