The Influence of Peer Institutions on Colleges’ Decisions: Evidence from Fall 2020 Reopening Plans
|Speaker:||Riley Acton, Miami University|
|Date:||Friday 21 May 2021|
We study how colleges and universities influence each other’s behavior in the context of fall reopening plans during the COVID-19 pandemic. By leveraging high-frequency data on colleges’ reopening announcements and using a fixed-effects model to control for unobserved factors at the college and state-day levels, we provide evidence that colleges respond strongly to prior decisions made by their peer institutions. A 10 percentage point (pp) increase in the share of one’s peers who have announced an in-person plan increases the probability of doing so by 2.6pp, while a 10pp increase in the share of one’s peers who have announced an online decision increases the probability of doing so by 4.1pp. These effects are large compared to colleges’ responsiveness to the local severity of the pandemic, and are robust to a variety of definitions of peer institutions, indicating that peers played a large role in determining how colleges operated during the pandemic.