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Article

Catching the Big Fish in the Little Pond (Effect): Causal Evidence from 33 Countries and Regions

Comparative Education Review. 2018. Vol. 62. No. 4. P. 542-564.

Researchers have long postulated the existence of a big fish little pond effect (BFLPE) in which a student’s relative academic standing in class or school impacts his or her academic self-concept. Few studies, however, use causal research designs to identify whether the BFLPE exists and whether it is generalizable across a wide variety of contexts. The goal of our study is to provide causal estimates of the BFLPE and examine whether the estimates differ by gender and national context. To fulfill our goal, we analyze cross-national TIMSS 2011 data using a cross-subject student-fixed effects model. Our results provide the strongest evidence to date that a sizeable BFLPE exists in STEM subjects irrespective of gender and national context.