New Findings

Social Interactions, Information, and Preferences for Schools: Experimental Evidence from Los Angeles

Discussion Paper

Christopher Campos

April 2024

This paper studies how parents’ school choices are affected by information about school and peer quality and how social interactions mediate changes in demand. The author designs an information intervention that cross-randomizes whether parents receive information about school quality (school value-added) and peer quality. Using a spillover design that varies the saturation of information across schools, the author also randomizes parents’ proximity to other parents with similar information. The author finds that the information leads to changes in parental preferences toward higher value-added schools, and this occurs when both parents and their neighbors receive information. These results imply substantial information spillovers. The author complements this evidence with survey data on the distribution of beliefs over school and peer quality and conclude that the direct and spillover effects of the author’s experiment come primarily from changes in parental preferences rather than an updating of parental beliefs in response to information. These findings show that when parents are informed about school and peer quality, their social interactions lead to changes in preferences in a way that rewards more effective schools. Enrollment in more effective schools led to improved socio-emotional outcomes not captured by standardized exams. This evidence suggests that the intervention did more than alter educational pathways; it also played a critical role in shaping important developmental aspects of students’ lives.