The Friends Factor: How Students' Social Networks Affect Their Academic Achievement and Well-Being?

51 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2012

See all articles by Victor Lavy

Victor Lavy

University of Warwick - Department of Economics; Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Edith Sand

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics

Date Written: October 2012

Abstract

In this paper, we estimate the influence of social relationships on educational attainment and social outcomes of students in school. More specifically, we investigate how losing different types of social relationships during the transition from elementary to middle school affect students' academic progress and general well-being. We use social relationships identified by the students themselves in elementary school, as part of a unique aspect of the Tel Aviv school application process which allows sixth-grade students to designate their middle schools of choice and to list up to eight friends with whom they wish to attend that school. The lists create natural "friendship hierarchies" that we exploit in our analysis. We designate the three categories of requited and unrequited friendships that stem from these lists as follows: (1) reciprocal friends (students who list one another); and for those whose friendship requests did not match: (2) followers (those who listed fellow students as friends but were not listed as friends by these same fellow students) and (3) non-reciprocal friends (parallel to followers). Following students from elementary to middle school enables us to overcome potential selection bias by using pupil fixed-effect methodology. Our results suggest that the presence of reciprocal friends and followers in class has a positive and significant effect on test scores in English, math, and Hebrew. However, the number of friends in the social network beyond the first circle of reciprocal friends has no effect at all on students. In addition, the presence of non-reciprocal friends in class has a negative effect on a student's learning outcomes. We find that these effects have interesting patterns of heterogeneity by gender, ability, and age of students. In addition, we find that these various types of friendships have positive effects on other measures of well-being, including social and overall happiness in school, time allocated for homework, and whether one exhibits violent behavior.

Suggested Citation

Lavy, Victor and Sand, Edith, The Friends Factor: How Students' Social Networks Affect Their Academic Achievement and Well-Being? (October 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18430. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2160187

Victor Lavy (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, 91905
Israel
+972 2 588 3245 (Phone)
+972 2 581 6071 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Edith Sand

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

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