Working Paper 11/271 - abstract

Raising your sights: the impact of friendship networks on educational aspirations (PDF, 279kB)

Simon Burgess and Marcela Umaña-Aponte

We use a unique longitudinal dataset on an adolescent friendship network to evaluate variations on educational aspirations of young people from disadvantaged and middle income backgrounds. We evaluate whether such people who have friends from wealthier backgrounds have higher aspirations than otherwise similar young people without such links. The results suggest that there are such effects. Individuals from low income families with friends from high income families are 15.2% more likely to expect to stay in full time education after they finish compulsory school. We find similar effects for the educational aspirations and expectations of middle income children. These effects are quantitatively and statistically significant, and robust to the inclusion of a wide range of control variables. We also show that friend’s mother’s aspirations matter too. Having friends whose mothers hope they will go to university increases the wish to carry on full time education by 30% points. This is conditional on the young person’s own mother’s aspirations for her/him.