IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Social Comparison and Peer Effects at an Elite College


  • Goethals, G.R.


A study was conducted to see whether peer effects could be observed among undergraduates at Williams College, an elite four-year liberal arts school. Specifically, the study explored whether students in the bottom third of their class, with average SAT's of about 1300, would perform better in writing about newspaper articles they read and discussed in groups of three if the two others in the group were academically superior -- from the top third of their class, with SAT's averaging about 1500 -- rather than similar -- also from the bottom third of the class. The results showed that women subjects performed better if their discussion partners were from the top third of the class, but men did better if their discussion partners were from the bottom third. Alternative analyses comparing subjects who had better or worse discussion partners as determined by the quality of their peers videotaped discussion statements, showed that across gender subjects did better written work when their discussion partners were better. The results were interpreted in terms of the principles of social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954).

Suggested Citation

  • Goethals, G.R., 2000. "Social Comparison and Peer Effects at an Elite College," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-55, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  • Handle: RePEc:wil:wilehe:55

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-735, May.
    2. Clotfelter, C. T., 2003. "Alumni giving to elite private colleges and universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 109-120, April.
    3. Ethel B. Jones & John D. Jackson, 1990. "College Grades and Labor Market Rewards," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 253-266.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item



    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wil:wilehe:55. 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: (Stephen Sheppard). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.