IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Impact of Group Diversity on Performance and Knowledge Spillover -- An Experiment in a College Classroom

  • Zeynep Hansen
  • Hideo Owan
  • Jie Pan
Registered author(s):

    An important yet under-explored question in the teamwork literature concerns how group characteristics affect productivity. Within a given teamwork setting, it is not obvious how group member diversity affects the performance of the individual and the group. The group may gain from knowledge transfer and sharing while it may be crippled by communication and coordination problems that are prevalent in heterogeneous groups. In this study, we combine class performance data from an undergraduate management class with students%u2019 personal records to explore diversity and knowledge spillover effects. A major advantage of our dataset is the exogenous assignment of groups, which rules out the troublesome yet common self-selection issue in team literature. Our results indicate that male-dominant groups performed worse both in group work and in individually taken exams than female-dominant and equally-mixed gender groups after controlling for other group characteristics. Individual members from a group with more diversity in age and gender scored higher in exams. However, we did not find any significance of a group%u2019s racial composition over group and individual performances. Another novel aspect of this natural experiment is that each group chooses their own group contract form %u2013 members of %u201Cautonomous%u201D groups receive equal grade for their group work while those in "democratic" groups can adopt differentiated point allocation, thus, providing a proper mechanism to punish free riders. Our estimation results show a significant correlation between the choice of a democratic contract and the group and individual performance. To address the endogeneity problem in groups%u2019 contract choices, we use a maximum likelihood treatment effect model and found that the democratic group contract has a positive and significant effect on group performance.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12251.

    in new window

    Date of creation: May 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12251
    Note: ED
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Antidiscrimination or Reverse Discrimination: The Impact of Changing Demographics, Title VII, and Affirmative Action on Productivity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(2), pages 145-174.
    2. Heckman, James J & Payner, Brook S, 1989. "Determining the Impact of Federal Antidiscrimination Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks: A Study of South Carolina," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 138-77, March.
    3. Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
    4. Harry Holzer & David Neumark, 1999. "Assessing Affirmative Action," NBER Working Papers 7323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Claudia Goldin, 1999. "A Brief History of Education in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Arcidiacono, Peter & Nicholson, Sean, 2005. "Peer effects in medical school," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 327-350, February.
    7. Gruenfeld, Deborah H & Mannix, Elizabeth A. & Williams, Katherine Y. & Neale, Margaret A., 1996. "Group Composition and Decision Making: How Member Familiarity and Information Distribution Affect Process and Performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 1-15, July.
    8. Imran Rasul & Iwan Barankay & Orana Bandiera, 2005. "Social preferences and the response to incentives: Evidence from personnel data," Natural Field Experiments 00212, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. Knez, Marc & Simester, Duncan, 2001. "Firm-Wide Incentives and Mutual Monitoring at Continental Airlines," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(4), pages 743-72, October.
    10. Becker, G.S. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-5, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    11. Bengt Holmstrom, 1982. "Moral Hazard in Teams," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 324-340, Autumn.
    12. Edward P. Lazear, 1998. "Globalization and the Market for Teammates," NBER Working Papers 6579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
    14. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
    15. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance In Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074, August.
    16. Peter Arcidiacono & Jacob L. Vigdor, 2010. "Does The River Spill Over? Estimating The Economic Returns To Attending A Racially Diverse College," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 537-557, 07.
    17. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12251. 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: ()

    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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.