An Aspiring Friend Is a Friend Indeed: School Peers and College Aspirations in Brazil

Jessica Gagete Miranda

Aspiration is a fundamental determinant of individuals' future outcomes and understanding the process of aspirations formation helps to inform public policies. Theoretical works show how aspiration is socially constructed and empirical contributions have shown how peers' socioeconomic status determines one's level of aspiration. The present work asks whether peers' aspiration also matters, over and above socioeconomic considerations. I use novel data on Brazilian students' networks, matched with administrative data, and investigate whether students' college aspiration spills over to their friends. The employed methodology acknowledges that social cliques are formed endogenously and addresses this challenge by modeling friendship formation based on homophily in predetermined characteristics and on students' as-good-as-random chances of interaction. Using the predicted adjacency matrix, I explore network structures and use friends of friends' characteristics as instruments for friends' aspirations. Results show a positive and significant impact: if a student passes from having no friends who aspire to a college degree to having all friends who aspire to it, her probability of aspiring to a college degree increases by about 15% points. Heterogeneous exercises show that such an impact is driven mostly by boys, and/or students with less-educated fathers. Peers' aspirations also influence students' future outcomes, such as school dropout. An important implication of these findings is that any educational policy that increases - or adjusts - students' aspirations might spillover to more vulnerable students, which should be considered in any cost-benefit analysis of impact evaluations.

See paper

 Presented in Session 44. Aspiration, Education and Achievements