Does it matter where you rank in school as a kid?

Yes, it helps to be on top.

The effects

  • A higher ordinal rank in primary school increases performance in secondary school (Murphy and Weinhardt 2020), high school achievement, completion, college enrollment, and future earnings (Denning et al 2021)
  • Ordinal rank in high school increases the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment (Elsner and Isphording 2017), decreases the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, unprotected sex, fighting, etc (Elsner and Isphording 2018), and increases conscientiousness (Pagani et al 2021)
  • Professional development for teachers that deemphasizes social comparison seems to mitigate this effect (Gilbert et al 2022)

What does it depend on?



  • Interesting tradeoffs with literature on peer effects and school quality
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