Inside the 'Black Box' of Project Star: Estimation of Peer Effects Using Experimental Data

The credible identification of endogenous peer group effects— i.e. social multiplier or feedback effects —has long eluded social scientists. We argue that such effects are most credibly identified by a randomly assigned social program which operates at differing intensities within and between peer groups. The data we use are from Project STAR, a class size reduction experiment conducted in Tennessee elementary schools. In these data, classes were comprised of varying fractions of students who had previously been exposed to the Small class treatment, creating class groupings of varying experimentally induced quality. We use this variation in class group quality to estimate the spillover effect. We find that when allowance is made for this ‘feedback’ effect of prior exposure to the Small class treatment, the peer effects account for much of the total experimental effects in the later grades, and the direct class size effects are rendered substantially smaller.

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Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
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JEL Codes:
Z13; C51; C81; I21; C23
Series Statement:
Center Discussion Paper No. 832

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-04

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