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

  • Victor Lavy
  • Edith Sand

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18430.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18430
Note: ED LS
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  1. Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson & David Pozen, 2007. "Building Criminal Capital behind Bars: Peer Effects in Juvenile Corrections," NBER Working Papers 12932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Conley, T.G. & Udry, C.R., 2000. "Learning about a New Technology: Pineapple in Ghana," Papers 817, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  3. Parag A. Pathak & Tayfun Sönmez, 2013. "School Admissions Reform in Chicago and England: Comparing Mechanisms by Their Vulnerability to Manipulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(1), pages 80-106, February.
  4. Xu Lin, 2010. "Identifying Peer Effects in Student Academic Achievement by Spatial Autoregressive Models with Group Unobservables," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 825-860, October.
  5. Marcel Fafchamps & Susan Lund, 2000. "Risk-Sharing Networks in Rural Philippines," Economics Series Working Papers 10, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: the Reflection Problem," Working papers 9127, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  7. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2002. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1535-1558, December.
  8. Joshua D. Angrist & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2011. "Explaining Charter School Effectiveness," NBER Working Papers 17332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Yeon-Koo Che & Yosuke Yasuda, 2011. "Resolving Conflicting Preferences in School Choice: The "Boston Mechanism" Reconsidered," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 399-410, February.
  10. Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," NBER Working Papers 7973, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Cullen, Julie Berry & Jacob, Brian A. & Levitt, Steven D., 2005. "The impact of school choice on student outcomes: an analysis of the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 729-760, June.
  12. Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2011. "Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 1-33, April.
  13. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig & Lawrence F. Katz, 2005. "Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 87-130, January.
  14. Jacob M. Markman & Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 2003. "Does peer ability affect student achievement?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 527-544.
  15. Victor Lavy & Anal�a Schlosser, 2011. "Corrigendum: Mechanisms and Impacts of Gender Peer Effects at School," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 268-268, July.
  16. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz, 2005. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," NBER Working Papers 11577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Victor Lavy & Olmo Silva & Felix Weinhardt, 2012. "The Good, the Bad, and the Average: Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in Schools," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 367 - 414.
  18. Victor Lavy, 2010. "Effects of Free Choice Among Public Schools," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(3), pages 1164-1191.
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