NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Exclusion Bias in the Estimation of Peer Effects

Bet Caeyers, Marcel Fafchamps

NBER Working Paper No. 22565
Issued in August 2016, Revised in February 2020
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Economics of Education

We examine a largely unexplored source of downward bias in peer effect estimation, namely, exclusion bias. We derive formulas for the magnitude of the bias in tests of random peer assignment, and for the combined reflection and exclusion bias in peer effect estimation. We show how to consistently test random peer assignment and how to estimate and conduct consistent inference on peer effects without instruments. The method corrects for the presence of reflection and exclusion bias but imposes restrictions on correlated effects. It allows the joint estimation of endogenous and exogenous peer effects in situations where instruments are not available and cannot be constructed from the network matrix. We estimate endogenous and exogenous peer effects in two datasets where instrumental approaches fail because peer assignment is to mutually exclusive groups of identical size. We find significant evidence of positive peer effects in one, negative peer effects in the other. In both cases, ignoring exclusion bias would have led to incorrect inference. We also demonstrate how the same approach applies to autoregressive models.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22565

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