|dc.description.abstract||In this dissertation, we use student-level high school and college entrance exam data from a city in China to explore the effects of peers, relative ranking and teacher quality on student test outcomes and track choices.
The broad consensus within the literature of peer effects suggests that students are positively impacted by higher-quality peers. A potential competing theory proposes that students who are near the top of the distribution of their schools—“big fish in a small pond”—may actually benefit more relative to students of similar ability who attend better schools. We estimate the returns to being a “big fish in a small pond,” in addition to traditional measures of peer effects. Results provide evidence for the existence of both effects.
Besides peer effects, the role of school quality is also an important factor to student outcomes. We use a regression discontinuity design that compares applicants barely above and below high school admission thresholds. Results show significant academic gains from attending elite Tier I high schools. Further evidence suggests that these returns to high school quality are driven by teacher quality, rather than by peer quality or class size.
Having high-quality peers not just potentially improves student test score outcomes; it could also influence their choice in major. We use the fixed effect model to compare within school variations across adjacent cohorts and find that high school girls are more likely to choose the science track if there is a higher percentage of high performing girls in her class. High performing boys have less or potentially negative effect on girls’ tendency of choosing science. Boys, on the other hand, are not affected by their peers in track choice.||en