With a little help from my friends peer effects in education

Our recent research uncovers peer effects in education as distinct from the contextual and other correlated influences. Our econometric strategy uses the topological structure of internet sites and network fixed effects to recognize each one of these effects separately.

Our analysis is manufactured possible through a distinctive database on friendship networks from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth). The AddHealth database has been made to study the impact of the social environment (i.e. friends, family, neighbourhood and school) on adolescents’ behaviour in america by collecting data on students in grades 7-12 from a nationally representative sample of roughly 130 private and public schools in years 1994-95 (wave I). A subset of adolescents selected from the rosters of the sampled schools, was then interviewed again in 1995-96 (wave II), in 2001-2 (wave III), and again in 2007-2008 (wave IV). For our purposes, the most interesting facet of the AddHealth data may be the friendship information, which is situated upon actual friend nominations. It really is collected at wave I, i.e. when individuals were at school. Indeed, pupils were asked to recognize their finest friends from a school roster (up to five males and five females). Subsequently, we can reconstruct the complete geometric structure of the friendship networks.

In Calvó-Armengol et al. (2008), we exploit such information to check a peer-effect model which relates analytically equilibrium behaviour to network location. This analysis implies that the structure of friendships ties can be an important, therefore far unnoticed, determinant of a pupil performance at school. In Patacchini et al. (2011), we follow this type of research by exploiting the other AddHealth waves as a way to investigate whether such effect is carried as time passes. Indeed, the longitudinal structure of the survey provides information on both respondents and friends through the adulthood. Specifically, the questionnaire of wave IV contains detailed information on the best education qualification achieved.

We analyse the impact of the friends’ educational attainment on a person’s educational attainment where they are defined as friends during school and directly into adulthood. We find that peer effects in education aren’t only strong but also persistent as time passes. We find that the most relevant peers will be the friends people make in grade 10-12, from if they remain 15 years old. This shows that individuals are much more likely to work at and connect with college if this choice is popular amongst their peers, especially within the last years at school. This may represent the result of contagion and collective socialisation and imply that any education policy targeting specific individuals could have multiplier effects.

Calvó-Armengol, A, E Patacchini, and Yves Zenou (2008), “Peer effects and internet sites in education”, CEPR Discussion Paper 7060, published in the Overview of Economic Studies 2009.

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