How peer effects affect students’ cognitive abilities

ZHAO Ying1

(1.School of Public Finance and Taxation, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law)

【Abstract】Equity in compulsory education includes not only the rational distribution of educational opportunities among different groups at the explicit level, but also the guarantee of education quality at the implicit level. Previous research has paid more attention to the former than to the latter. This paper used China Education Panel Survey random survey data of junior middle school students in China from 2013 to 2014 to study the peer effects on individual cognitive ability from the perspective of student peer effects. The analysis shows the following. (1) The peer effects in the stage of compulsory education in China have negative impacts on students’ performance, which is magnified by the increasing class and school sizes in the process of promoting compulsory education; (2) students with better academic performance benefit from interaction with students at the same level, but students with worse academic performance suffer in the process; (3) as far as the transmission mechanism is concerned, the class size and teacher characteristics are the main factors. In the new era, China’s compulsory education policy should gradually shift its focus from quantity growth to quality improvement, giving consideration to both explicit equality in access to education and implicit equality in education quality.

【Keywords】 peer effect; nonlinear effect; individual cognitive ability; class size;


【Funds】 National Natural Science Fund of China (71804193) Youth Fund Project of the Ministry of Education (16YJC790148) Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2722019JCG017)

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(Translated by LI Mengling)


    [1]. (1) In the 13th Five-Year Plan, poverty alleviation targets and eight measures are clearly put forward, among which improving the overall quality of education is the core content of education poverty alleviation. [^Back]

    [2]. (2) According to the data in Overview of China’s Education: the Development of National Education in 2015, the net enrollment rate of primary school children reached 99.88% in 2015, and the net enrollment rate of junior middle school reached 104.0%. [^Back]

    [3]. (3) From 2001 to 2015, the number of primary schools withdrawn and merged in China was 363,100, down by 65.59%. [^Back]

    [4]. (4) The data are from CEIC. [^Back]

    [5]. (5) Unless there are transferred students. [^Back]

    [6]. (6) It is also found that there is no self-selection effect in the allocation of teachers in classes. [^Back]

    [7]. (7) Although this estimation method has been criticized a lot, such as the criticism of its assuming the substitution relationship between the mean and standard deviation of students’ scores, this paper takes it as a basic regression equation, and the relevant assumption will be loosened in the following analysis. [^Back]

    [8]. (8) Related results are available upon request. [^Back]

    [9]. (9) This paper explains this problem from the following two perspectives: class size and heterogeneity of beneficiary groups. [^Back]

    [10]. (10) Related results are available upon request. [^Back]

    [11]. (11) Restricted to the layout of the paper, here only the standardized results are reported, and other results are available upon request. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1166/F

Vol 40, No. 08, Pages 33-49

August 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Institutional background and literature review
  • 3 Data source and research method
  • 4 Empirical analysis and related test
  • 5 Further discussion
  • 6 Conclusion and enlightenment
  • Footnote