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Achievement Effects from New Peers: Who Matters to Whom?

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Abstract: This paper presents estimates of achievement-related peer effects on school pupils’ literacy using data from national test scores, across multiple literacy or language-related measures and student cohorts, for the population of public secondary school pupils in Years 7 and 9 (aged 12 13 and 14 15 years) in the Australian state of Victoria. Identification is achieved via individual fixed effects and by distinguishing between secondary school peers who attended the same primary school as the individual and those who did not. Estimates of peer effects are based on the new peers, whose primary school achievement could not have been affected by the individual. The results provide evidence for the existence of achievement-related peer effects, with small but positive and statistically significant effects from having higher-achieving peers on average and from having a higher proportion of very high achieving peers (in the top 10 of the prior achievement distribution). We do not find a penalty from having ‘bad’ peers (from the bottom 10 of the prior achievement distribution). Further, it is low achievement individuals who benefit most from having high achievement peers.

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