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The impact of peer ability and heterogeneity on student achievement: Evidence from a natural experiment


  • Kiss, David


This paper estimates the impact of peer achievement and variance on math achievement growth. It exploits exogenous variation in peer characteristics generated at the transition to upper-secondary school in a sample of Berlin fifth graders. Parents and schools are barely able to condition their decisions on peer characteristics since classes are newly built up from a large pool of elementary school pupils. I find positive peer effects on achievement growth and no effects for peer variance. Lower-achieving pupils benefit more from abler peers. Results from simulations suggest that pupils are slightly better off in comprehensive than in ability-tracked school systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Kiss, David, 2011. "The impact of peer ability and heterogeneity on student achievement: Evidence from a natural experiment," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 02/2011, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:iwqwdp:022011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philipp Bauer & Regina Riphahn, 2007. "Heterogeneity in the intergenerational transmission of educational attainment: evidence from Switzerland on natives and second-generation immigrants," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 20(1), pages 121-148, February.
    2. Julie Berry Cullen & Brian A Jacob & Steven Levitt, 2006. "The Effect of School Choice on Participants: Evidence from Randomized Lotteries," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1191-1230, September.
    3. Scott E. Carrell & Richard L. Fullerton & James E. West, 2009. "Does Your Cohort Matter? Measuring Peer Effects in College Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 439-464, July.
    4. Dardanoni Valentino & Modica Salvatore & Pennsi Aline, 2009. "Grading Across Schools," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-16, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zwick, Thomas, 2012. "Determinants of individual academic achievement: Group selectivity effects have many dimensions," ZEW Discussion Papers 12-081, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    2. repec:taf:vjerxx:v:109:y:2016:i:1:p:37-49 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Bolli, Thomas & Olivares, Maria & Bonaccorsi, Andrea & Daraio, Cinzia & Aracil, Adela Garcia & Lepori, Benedetto, 2016. "The differential effects of competitive funding on the production frontier and the efficiency of universities," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 91-104.

    More about this item


    peer effects in secondary school; comparison between ability-tracked and comprehensive school; natural experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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