Cool to Be Smart or Smart to Be Cool: Understanding Peer Pressure in Education, Review of Economic Studies
Concerns about social image may negatively affect schooling behavior. We identify two potentially important peer cultures: one that stigmatizes effort (thus, where it is â€œsmart to be coolâ€) and one that rewards ability (where it is â€œcool to be smartâ€). We build a model showing that either may lower the takeup of educational activities when takeup and performance are potentially observable to peers. We design a field experiment allowing us to test whether students are influenced by these concerns at all, and then which they are more influenced by. We examine high schools in two settings: a low-income, high minority share area and a higher-income, lower minority share area. In both settings, peer pressure reduces takeup of an SAT prep package. We show that this is consistent with a greater concern for hiding effort in the lower-income school, and a greater concern with hiding low ability in the higher-income schools.
Leonardo Bursztyn, Georgy Egorov, Robert Jensen
Bursztyn, Leonardo, Georgy Egorov, and Robert Jensen. 2019. Cool to Be Smart or Smart to Be Cool: Understanding Peer Pressure in Education. Review of Economic Studies. 86(4): 1487-1526.LINK