The Classroom as a Sorting Machine: The Effect of Student Rank on Educational Outcomes

27.04.2021 - 15:30 to 17:00
Location : 
Online via Zoom
Type of Event : 
AB A-Kolloquium
Prof. Moris Triventi
Lecturer affiliation: 
University of Trento

The Zoom link can be requested at colloquia-a [at]

Students in compulsory education spend a considerable amount of time in the classroom interacting with peers and teachers, from whom they receive feedback and signals about their academic competence. We argue that teachers – when attributing marks to students – create a classroom hierarchy and the perception of one’s position in this hierarchy might affect academic outcomes and socio-emotional skills. To test this hypothesis, we use population data on two cohorts of students in Italy, who are followed from the lower to upper secondary education. To identify the causal effect of student rank, we exploit the idiosyncratic variation generated by differential teachers’ grading standards and student composition across classrooms. Fixed effects regression models show that a student's position in the classroom rank, net of her absolute performance level, rises math confidence and self-esteem, increases the probability of enrolling in the academic track, and reduces the risk of school dropout. Classroom rank affects educational choices especially among males, whereas it has a stronger effect on individual attitudes among females.