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How Does Peer Pressure Affect Educational Investments?

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  • Leonardo Bursztyn
  • Robert Jensen

Abstract

When effort is observable to peers, students may act to avoid social penalties by conforming to prevailing norms. To test for such behavior, we conducted an experiment in which 11th grade students were offered complimentary access to an online SAT preparatory course. Signup sheets differed randomly across students (within classrooms) only in the extent to which they emphasized that the decision to enroll would be kept private from classmates. In non-honors classes, the signup rate was 11 percentage points lower when decisions to enroll were public rather than private. Sign up in honors classes was unaffected. To further isolate the role of peer pressure we examine students taking the same number of honors classes. The timing of our visits to each school will find some of these students in one of their honors classes and others in one of their non-honors classes; which they happen to be sitting in when we arrive to conduct our experiment should be (and, empirically, is) uncorrelated with student characteristics. When offered the course in a non-honors class, these students were 25 percentage points less likely to sign up if the decision was public rather than private. But if they were offered the course in one of their honors classes, they were 25 percentage points more likely to sign up when the decision was public. Thus, students are highly responsive to who their peers are and what the prevailing norm is when they make decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonardo Bursztyn & Robert Jensen, 2014. "How Does Peer Pressure Affect Educational Investments?," NBER Working Papers 20714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20714
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Richard Murphy & Felix Weinhardt, 2014. "Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank," CESifo Working Paper Series 4815, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2016. "Can Tracking Raise the Test Scores of High-Ability Minority Students?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(10), pages 2783-2816, October.
    3. Denning, Jeffrey T. & Murphy, Richard J. & Weinhardt, Felix, 2018. "Class Rank and Long-Run Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 11808, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:eee:irlaec:v:51:y:2017:i:c:p:38-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:64:y:2018:i:c:p:313-342 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Damgaard, Mette Trier & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2018. "Nudging in education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 313-342.
    7. Huang, Wei & Lei, Xiaoyan & Sun, Ang, 2015. "The Great Expectations: Impact of One-Child Policy on Education of Girls," IZA Discussion Papers 9301, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Henry, Emeric & Sonntag, Jan, 2015. "Measuring image concerns," CEPR Discussion Papers 10831, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Wagner, Valentin & Riener, Gerhard, 2015. "Peers or parents? On non-monetary incentives in schools," DICE Discussion Papers 203, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    10. Belot, Michèle & James, Jonathan, 2016. "Partner selection into policy relevant field experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 31-56.
    11. Leonardo Bursztyn & Georgy Egorov & Stefano Fiorin, 2017. "From Extreme to Mainstream: How Social Norms Unravel," NBER Working Papers 23415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. repec:bpj:bejeap:v:17:y:2017:i:3:p:10:n:9 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Robinson, Carly D. & Gallus, Jana & Lee, Monica G. & Rogers, Todd, 2018. "The Demotivating Effect (and Unintended Message) of Retrospective Awards," Working Paper Series rwp18-020, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    14. repec:bpd:articl:v:1:y:2018:i:1:jbpa.11.20 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Kiss David, 2017. "A Model about the Impact of Ability Grouping on Student Achievement," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 17(3), pages 1-10, July.
    16. Roland G. Fryer, Jr, 2017. "Management and Student Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 23437, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Mira Fischer & Valentin Wagner, 2018. "Effects of Timing and Reference Frame of Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Working Papers 1820, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.
    18. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking risk or answering smart? Framing in elementary schools," DICE Discussion Papers 227, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    19. repec:eee:joepsy:v:62:y:2017:i:c:p:155-172 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Adam M. Lavecchia & Heidi Liu & Philip Oreopoulos, 2014. "Behavioral Economics of Education: Progress and Possibilities," NBER Working Papers 20609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Wagner, Valentin, 2016. "Seeking Risk or Answering Smart? Experimental Evidence on Framing Effects in Elementary Schools," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145678, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    22. repec:eee:labeco:v:47:y:2017:i:c:p:48-63 is not listed on IDEAS
    23. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:59:y:2017:i:c:p:43-62 is not listed on IDEAS

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    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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