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Peer Effects & Differential Attrition: Evidence from Tennessee’s Project STAR

By Sanjay Satish

Abstract
This paper explores the effects of attrition on student development in early education.
It aims to provide evidence that student departure in elementary schools has educational
impacts on the students they leave behind. Utilizing data from Tennessee’s Project STAR
experiment, this paper aims to expand upon the literature of peer effects, as well as attrition,
in public elementary schools. It departs from previous papers by utilizing survival analysis to
determine which characteristics of students prolonged participation in the experiment. Clustering
analysis is subsequently employed to group departed students to better understand
the various channels of attrition present in STAR. It finds that students who left Project
STAR were more likely to be of lower income and lower ability than their peers. This paper
then uses these findings to estimate the peer effects of attrition on students who remained
in the experiment and undertakes a discussion of potential sources of bias in this estimation
and their effects on the explanatory power of peer effects estimates.

Professor Robert Garlick, Faculty Advisor
Professor Michelle Connolly, Faculty Advisor

JEL Classification: I, I21, I26, H4, J13

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Matthew Eggleston
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Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly
michelle.connolly@duke.edu