NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Peer Quality and the Academic Benefits to Attending Better Schools

Mark Hoekstra, Pierre Mouganie, Yaojing Wang

NBER Working Paper No. 22337
Issued in June 2016
NBER Program(s):ED

Despite strong demand for attending high schools with better peers, there is mixed evidence on whether doing so improves academic outcomes. We estimate the cognitive returns to high school quality using administrative data on a high-stakes college entrance exam in China. To overcome selection bias, we use a regression discontinuity design that compares applicants barely above and below high school admission thresholds. Results indicate that while peer quality improves significantly across all sets of admission cutoffs, the only increase in performance occurs from attending Tier I high schools. Further evidence suggests that the returns to high school quality are driven by teacher quality, rather than peer quality or class size.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22337

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