Cool to be smart or smart to be cool? understanding peer pressure in education

Leonardo Bursztyn, Georgy Egorov, Robert Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We model and test two school-based peer cultures: One that stigmatizes effort and one that rewards ability. The model shows that either may reduce participation in educational activities when peers can observe participation and performance. We design a field experiment that allows us to test for, and differentiate between, these two concerns. We find that peer pressure reduces takeup of an SAT prep package virtually identically across two very different high school settings. However, the effects arise from very distinct mechanisms: A desire to hide effort in one setting and a desire to hide low ability in the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1487-1526
Number of pages40
JournalReview of Economic Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • Education
  • Field experiment
  • Peer pressure
  • Signalling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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