22 octobre 2021

Heure: 10h30 - 11h45
Lieu: DES-2225

Description de l'événement

Conférencière : Karen Ye (Queen's)

Invitée par : Catherine Michaud-Leclerc

Titre: Understanding peer effects in educational decisions: Theory and evidence from a field experience

Résumé: While a large literature documents the presence of peer effects in teenage decision-making, researchers know very little about the underlying mechanisms. In this paper, I focus on the decision by high school students to participate in an educational program. I develop a theoretical model based on Brock and Durlauf (2001) with two channels of peer effects: social learning (where a peer’s decision is informative about the value of a program) and social utility (where a peer’s participation directly changes the benefits or costs of a program). I conduct a field experiment in three Chicago high schools to disentangle the two channels. In the experiment, I measure students’ sign-up rates for a college application assistance program where I randomize (a) whether a student sees a peer’s decision, and (b) which type of peer’s decision they see. I find large peer effects in the participation decision that are entirely driven by seeing a peer choose not to participate – seeing a peer choose “No” decreases the sign-up rate by 26.9 percentage points. The peer effects are driven by social utility, and seeing a peer choose “No” informs students about the social norms of participation. In this context, smart students’ decisions are especially influential. Further, while students want to conform to the social norm, they have very biased beliefs about (they drastically underestimate) their peers’ participation. I estimate my model and combine the structural estimates with collected school social network data to run a policy counterfactual. I find that when there are negative peer effects and costly initial adoption, programs targeting smart students may have decreased sign-up rates compared to programs targeting highest need students.