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Working Paper

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Classroom ability matters if children assess their own academic ability relative to theirpeers. I use detailed survey and administrative data on a cohort of Swedish 6th gradersto estimate the effect of classmates’ ability on students compulsory school choices. Classability appears to be as good as randomly assigned within schools, which allows to givecausal interpretation to the estimates. I find that a one standard deviation increase inaverage class ability reduces by 2 percentage points the probability of taking an advancedmath course in grades 7 to 9. Peer ability does not affect English course choices in grades7 to 9, and whether students choose academic tracks in high school. I look at underlyingmechanisms and show that peer ability negatively affects students’ assessment of ownability. The different reduced-form effects on math and English course choices reflectdifferent spillovers in performance: students benefit much more from from having highability peers in English, an interactive subject, than they do in math. Finally peer abilitydoes not seem to affect student’s motivation, class interaction and parental support, butpositively affects teacher interaction.


Peer effects, Ability, Uncertainty, Learning, Self-concept, Educational Attainment


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Education Economics

Research Areas

Economic Theory



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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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