Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Serkan Ozbeklik

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© 2012 Eric L. Bean

Abstract

Using a unique data set in which students have been assigned randomly to different classrooms throughout several disadvantaged school districts across the United States, I estimate how a student's peer group can affect their academic achievement. Both my data set and my empirical strategy allow me to overcome many of the well-documented difficulties associated with accurately measuring peer effects, though certain data limitations remain an inevitable part of the study. Under these constraints, I find evidence of small peer group effects within a specific proportion of the student population. Generally, however, my findings suggest that peer effects do not play a significant role in shaping educational outcomes. Personal ability is by far the most contributive factor to students' academic performance while the ability of their average classmate does not appear to matter at all, except in the case of very low ability students, where the effect is both small and negative.

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