A recent study examines how peer achievement and a classroom’s gender composition influence math achievement and student attendance rates.
The author, Ozkan Eren of Louisiana State University, uses data collected from a well-executed randomized experiment of middle and high school students in disadvantaged neighborhoods between 2010 and 2012. The sample included 5,320 students from eighty schools in twenty school districts.
There are three key findings: First, having a higher proportion of female peers in math classrooms improves the math test scores of female students, especially in less-advanced math courses, such as general high school math. A 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of female peers increases the average math test scores by 0.1 of a standard deviation. The gender effects on male students, however, are positive but insignificant.
Second, regarding peer effects, having higher achieving peers has no significant effect on female math test scores, but does improve the marks of males in the bottom two-thirds of achievement: A 1.0 standard deviation increase in peer achievement increases boys’ math achievement by 0.4 of a standard deviation.
Finally, having a higher proportion of female peers in math classrooms decreases the probability of chronic absenteeism among male students, but has no...