Behavioral barriers to success in education

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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This dissertation investigates the role of aspirations and beliefs in explaining children’s educational outcomes, and explores how they can exacerbate socioeconomic disadvantage in education. Chapter 1 proposes an easily-implementable methodology to estimate the size of aspirational poverty traps in a given population—an important quantity which indicates the scope for reducing achievement gaps by lifting aspirations. - Chapter 2 shows that policy uncertainty about student finance can alone deepen achievement gaps as early as upon entering middle school. This finding demonstrates that reducing uncertainty in student finance could improve access to higher education. - Chapter 3 indicates that higher-achieving peers improve test scores and trigger a host of behavioural changes in children and parents, yet these behavioural changes do not explain peer effects in test scores. - Chapter 4 shows that teachers rely on imperfect signals about children’s ability, and form systematically biased expectations about their potential, intensifying disadvantage in the short and long run. This study, however, also suggests that the consequences of teacher bias can be limited by admissions policies in which teacher assessments have little weight.
This dissertation, overall, demonstrates that aspirations and beliefs of students, parents and teachers matter for children’s educational success. It concludes that educational policies may reduce socioeconomic disadvantage through their impact on aspirations and beliefs.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Marie, Olivier, Supervisor
  • van der Velden, Rolf, Supervisor
Award date29 Mar 2021
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Print ISBNs9789053215944
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • economics of education
  • peer effects
  • teacher bias
  • beliefs
  • inequality of opportunity
  • education policy

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