Discussion paper

DP16066 Achievement Rank Affects Performance and Major Choices in College

This paper studies how a student’s ordinal rank in a peer group affects performance and specialisation choices in university. By exploiting data with repeated random assignment of students to teaching sections, we find that a higher rank increases performance and the probability of choosing related follow-up courses and majors. We document two types of dynamic effects. First, earlier ranks are less important than later ranks. Second, responses to rank changes are asymmetric: improvements in rank raise performance, while decreases in rank have no effect. Rank effects partially operate through students’ expectations about future grades.

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Citation

Elsner, B, I Isphording and U Zölitz (eds) (2021), “DP16066 Achievement Rank Affects Performance and Major Choices in College”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 16066. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16066