Girls, Boys, and High Achievers

62 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019

See all articles by Angela Cools

Angela Cools

Cornell University

Raquel Fernández

New York University - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Eleonora Patacchini

Cornell University

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

This paper studies the effect of exposure to female and male "high-achievers" in high school on the long-run educational outcomes of their peers. Using data from a recent cohort of students in the United States, we identify a causal effect by exploiting quasi-random variation in the exposure of students to peers with highly-educated parents across cohorts within a school. We find that greater exposure to "high-achieving" boys, as proxied by their parents' education, decreases the likelihood that girls go on to complete a bachelor's degree, substituting the latter with junior college degrees. It also affects negatively their math and science grades and, in the long term, decreases labor force participation and increases fertility. We explore possible mechanisms and find that greater exposure leads to lower self-confidence and aspirations and to more risky behavior (including having a child before age 18). The girls most strongly affected are those in the bottom half of the ability distribution (as measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test), those with at least one college-educated parent, and those attending a school in the upper half of the socio-economic distribution. The effects are quantitatively important: an increase of one standard deviation in the percent of "high-achieving" boys decreases the probability of obtaining a bachelor's degree from 2.2-4.5 percentage points, depending on the group. Greater exposure to "high-achieving" girls, on the other hand, increases bachelor's degree attainment for girls in the lower half of the ability distribution, those without a college-educated parent, and those attending a school in the upper half of the socio-economic distribution. The effect of "high-achievers" on male outcomes is markedly different: boys are unaffected by "high-achievers" of either gender.

Keywords: Cohort Study, education, Gender, High Achievers, Peers

JEL Classification: I21, J16

Suggested Citation

Cools, Angela and Fernández, Raquel and Patacchini, Eleonora, Girls, Boys, and High Achievers (May 2019). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP13754. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3395192

Angela Cools (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Raquel Fernández

New York University - Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics ( email )

269 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-8908 (Phone)
212-995-4186 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Eleonora Patacchini

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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