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The Friends Factor: How Students' Social Networks Affect Their Academic Achievement and Well-Being?

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  • Victor Lavy
  • Edith Sand

Abstract

In this paper, we estimate the influence of social relationships on educational attainment and social outcomes of students in school. More specifically, we investigate how losing different types of social relationships during the transition from elementary to middle school affect students' academic progress and general well-being. We use social relationships identified by the students themselves in elementary school, as part of a unique aspect of the Tel Aviv school application process which allows sixth-grade students to designate their middle schools of choice and to list up to eight friends with whom they wish to attend that school. The lists create natural "friendship hierarchies" that we exploit in our analysis. We designate the three categories of requited and unrequited friendships that stem from these lists as follows: (1) reciprocal friends (students who list one another); and for those whose friendship requests did not match: (2) followers (those who listed fellow students as friends but were not listed as friends by these same fellow students) and (3) non-reciprocal friends (parallel to followers). Following students from elementary to middle school enables us to overcome potential selection bias by using pupil fixed-effect methodology. Our results suggest that the presence of reciprocal friends and followers in class has a positive and significant effect on test scores in English, math, and Hebrew. However, the number of friends in the social network beyond the first circle of reciprocal friends has no effect at all on students. In addition, the presence of non-reciprocal friends in class has a negative effect on a student's learning outcomes. We find that these effects have interesting patterns of heterogeneity by gender, ability, and age of students. In addition, we find that these various types of friendships have positive effects on other measures of well-being, including social and overall happiness in school, time allocated for homework, and whether one exhibits violent behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18430
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Gibbons, Stephen & Silva, Olmo & Weinhardt, Felix, 2017. "Neighbourhood Turnover and Teenage Attainment," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 746-783.
    2. Fletcher, Jason M. & Ross, Stephen L. & Zhang, Yuxiu, 2020. "The consequences of friendships: Evidence on the effect of social relationships in school on academic achievement," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
    3. Son Thierry Ly & Arnaud Riegert, 2014. "Persistent Classmates: How Familiarity with Peers Protects from Disruptive School Transitions," Working Papers halshs-00842265, HAL.
    4. Itai Ashlagi & Peng Shi, 2014. "Improving Community Cohesion in School Choice via Correlated-Lottery Implementation," Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 62(6), pages 1247-1264, December.
    5. Luca Paolo Merlino & Max Friedrich Steinhardt & Liam Wren-Lewis, 2019. "More than Just Friends? School Peers and Adult Interracial Relationships," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(3), pages 663-713.
    6. Oleg Poldin & Dilyara Valeeva & Maria Yudkevich, 2013. "How social ties affect peer-group effects: a case of university students," HSE Working papers WP BRP 15/SOC/2013, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    7. Goux, Dominique & Gurgand, Marc & Maurin, Eric, 2014. "Adjusting Your Dreams? The Effect of School and Peers on Dropout Behaviour," IZA Discussion Papers 7948, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Alexis Le Chapelain, 2014. "Market for Education and Student Achievement," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/1jgbspo1909, Sciences Po.

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    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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