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The Good, the Bad and the Average: Evidence on the Scale and Nature of Ability Peer Effects in Schools

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  • Victor Lavy
  • Olmo Silva
  • Felix Weinhardt

Abstract

In this paper, we study ability peer effects in secondary schools in England and identify which segments of the peer ability distribution drive the impact of peer quality on students‟ achievements. To do so, we use census data for four cohorts of pupils taking their age-14 national tests, and measure students‟ ability by their prior achievements at age-11. We employ a new identification strategy based on within-pupil regressions that exploit variation in achievements across the three compulsory subjects (English, Mathematics and Science) tested both at age-14 and age-11. We find significant and sizeable negative peer effects arising from bad peers at the very bottom of the ability distribution, but little evidence that average peer quality and very good peers significantly affect pupils‟ academic achievements. However, these results mask some significant heterogeneity along the gender dimension, with girls significantly benefiting from the presence of very academically bright peers, and boys marginally losing out.

Suggested Citation

  • Victor Lavy & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2009. "The Good, the Bad and the Average: Evidence on the Scale and Nature of Ability Peer Effects in Schools," NBER Working Papers 15600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15600
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    Cited by:

    1. Atila Abdulkadiroğlu & Joshua Angrist & Parag Pathak, 2014. "The Elite Illusion: Achievement Effects at Boston and New York Exam Schools," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82(1), pages 137-196, January.
    2. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2013. "Under Pressure? The Effect of Peers on Outcomes of Young Adults," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 119-153.
    3. V. Rattini, 2014. "The Causal Effect of Scholarships Targeted at Low Income Students on Performance: Evidence from Italy," Working Papers wp968, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    4. Papps, Kerry L. & Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael, 2011. "Heterogeneous worker ability and team-based production: Evidence from major league baseball, 1920-2009," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 310-319, June.
    5. Cattaneo, Maria Alejandra & Wolter, Stefan C., 2012. "Migration Policy Can Boost PISA Results: Findings from a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 6300, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Weinhardt, Felix, 2010. "Moving into the projects: social housing neighbourhoods and school performance in England," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 33612, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Susanne Link, 2012. "Single-Sex Schooling and Student Performance: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from South Korea," ifo Working Paper Series 146, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    8. Edwin Leuven & Marte Rønning, 2016. "Classroom Grade Composition and Pupil Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1164-1192, June.
    9. Murguia Baysse, Juan Manuel, 2013. "Essays on agricultural, financial economics and education," ISU General Staff Papers 201301010800004458, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    10. Helena Holmlund & Olmo Silva, 2014. "Targeting Noncognitive Skills to Improve Cognitive Outcomes: Evidence from a Remedial Education Intervention," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(2), pages 126-160.
    11. Stephen Gibbons & Shqiponja Telhaj, 2016. "Peer Effects: Evidence from Secondary School Transition in England," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 78(4), pages 548-575, August.
    12. Maria Cattaneo & Stefan Wolter, 2015. "Better migrants, better PISA results: Findings from a natural experiment," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-19, December.
    13. Gibbons, Stephen & Silva, Olmo, 2011. "School quality, child wellbeing and parents' satisfaction," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 312-331, April.
    14. Brunello, Giorgio & Rocco, Lorenzo, 2013. "The effect of immigration on the school performance of natives: Cross country evidence using PISA test scores," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 234-246.
    15. David J. Deming & Justine S. Hastings & Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2014. "School Choice, School Quality, and Postsecondary Attainment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 991-1013, March.
    16. Jackson, C. Kirabo, 2013. "Can higher-achieving peers explain the benefits to attending selective schools? Evidence from Trinidad and Tobago," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 63-77.
    17. Vardardottir, Arna, 2013. "Peer effects and academic achievement: a regression discontinuity approach," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 108-121.
    18. Cicala, Steve & Fryer, Roland G. & Spenkuch, Jörg L., 2011. "A Roy Model of Social Interactions," MPRA Paper 29150, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Stephen Gibbons & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2010. "Do Neighbours Affect Teenage Outcomes? Evidence from Neighbourhood Changes in England," SERC Discussion Papers 0063, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    20. 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.
    21. Friesen, Jane & Krauth, Brian, 2011. "Ethnic enclaves in the classroom," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 656-663, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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