What Can Be Learned about Peer Effects Using College Roommates? Evidence from New Survey Data and Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds
Previous papers which examine the importance of peer effects using exogenous variation in college roommates have found only very limited evidence that a student’s first year grade performance is influenced by the observable academic characteristics of his/her roommate. One possible explanation for this finding is that peer effects do not play a particularly important role in the higher education setting. However, another very plausible explanation for this finding is that peer effects are important in higher education but that these previous empirical efforts have simply not been “looking in the right place” to find the evidence of peer effects in this setting. Thus, while these papers have received considerable attention due to the general difficulty of finding credible exogenous variation in peer quality, they have difficulty answering the most fundamental question related to peer effects in this higher education - whether peer effects play an important role or not. This paper provides depth to the peer effects literature using unique new survey and administrative data.