Along for the Ride: Best Friends' Resources and Adolescents' College Completion

Having the right friends is important for a child’s development. In this study, Hua-Yu Cherng, Jessica Calarco, and Grace Kao examined whether students gain academic benefits when they have high-achieving best friends. Specifically, they investigate the impact of a best friend’s parent’s wealth and educational attainment on the likelihood of completing college. The researchers found mixed results. They found a small correlation in parental wealth and college completion, but a more significant correlation between parent’s educational attainment and college completion. The researchers are able to show that the relationships students develop with their peers can produce positive effects, when their peers come from families with a college education. Unfortunately, the researchers also conclude that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not always benefit from this peer effect because they are often segregated by academic track or school. High-performing urban schools like Dayton’s Stivers School of the Arts, however, have been able to bring together like-minded students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. To do this, school leaders have been able to create a culture where peers collaborate and build close relationships through their work.

SOURCE: Cherng, Hua-Yu Sebastian, Jessica McCrory Calarco, and Grace Kao. "Along for the Ride: Best Friends' Resources and Adolescents' College Completion." American Eduactional Research Journal 50, no. 1 (2013): 76-106.

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