Georgia Tech PhD Student, Xin Gu, Wins Inaugural 3rd-year Paper Award

PhD Student, Xin Gu

Posted October 21, 2020

Congratulations to 3rd-year Ph.D. student, Xin Gu!

Gu (advisor: Professor Haizheng Li) was the recipient of the inaugural 3rd-year paper award with an accompanying $500 prize for his paper “Peer Effects and Cognitive Ability Formation.”

The creation of the award was initiated under the leadership of Professor Tibor Besedes. "The third-year paper is the first significant research project students in our Ph.D. program have to complete. The award is a great way to recognize an important step in their research careers. It is a way for the School and the faculty to encourage our students as they work on their degree", said Besedes. The current Director of Doctoral Programs, Olga Shemyakina, is excited that we have a platform to recognize our students for their hard and creative work in a more formal way. 


In this paper, we investigate the impact of peer effects on the cognitive ability formation at the micro level. Inspired by Benabou (1996), we develop a theoretical framework of human capital formation, in which peer effects play roles at two levels 1) global linkage and 2) local linkage. In the identification strategy, we differentiate the classroom peer effects (global linkage) and the close friend peer effects (local linkage). We measure the classroom peer effects by the traditional linear-in-means method and the close friend peer effects by the friend-related variables in the data from China Education Panel Survey (CEPS).

In the identification strategy, we start with separating peer effects from other confounding effects, such as school, family, and teacher effects, by controlling for school fixed effects, family characteristics and teachers’ experience. Furthermore, we use the random classroom assignment in the data and IV approaches to address the potential endogeneity issues due to the concerns about selection into network and unobserved characteristics. We find there is strong evidence that peer effects play important roles in students’ cognitive ability formation from two levels of groups, namely class peers and close friends. Peer effects are heterogeneous across school locations and student ability, specifically the rural benefit more than the urban and the low-ability benefit more than the high-ability. Students interacting with good peers tend to perform well through channels like higher learning efficiency and more effort exertion. 

The School of Economics is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

Contact For More Information

S. Dante Christmas