Aline Bütikofer, NHH Bergen

School Selectivity, Peers, and Mental Health


Although many students suffer from anxiety and depression issues, and students mention school pressure and concerns about the future as major reasons for their worries, little is known about the consequences of a selective school environment on health. In this paper, we build on rich administrative data and on the features of the high school assignment system in the largest Norwegian cities to study the long-term consequences of enrollment in a more selective high school. Using a regression discontinuity analysis, we show that eligibility to enroll in a more selective high school increases the probability of enrollment in higher education and decreases the probability of being diagnosed or treated by a general medical practitioner for psychological symptoms and diseases. We further document that enrolling in a more selective high school has larger positive impacts when there are larger changes in the student-teacher ratio, teachers’ age, and the proportion of female teachers. Our results therefore suggest that changes in teachers’ characteristics are important to understand the effects of a more selective school environment.

Aline Bütikofer is a Professor of Economics at the Norwegian School of Economics. She received her PhD from the Department of Economics at the University of Bern in 2011. She is a co-founder of the Center for Empirical Labor Economics and since 2017 a faculty affiliate at the Centre of Excellence FAIR (Centre for Experimental Research on Fairness, Inequality and Rationality).

She has contributed to a growing literature on long-term effects of early investments in children, with a focus on identifying causal effects of policies such as parental leave, infant health care, vaccination programs, school meal programs, and international treaties to ban nuclear weapon testing. In addition, her work analyzes the effect of medical innovations on productivity. Her work combines state-of-the art statistical analysis with uniquely detailed Norwegian register data.

Her work has been published in leading economic journals, including Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economics and Statistics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Public Economics, and Journal of Human Resources. Her work has been widely disseminated in international and national media, including for example the New York Times, PBS, Scientist Magazine, Telegraph, and Dagens Næringsliv.

She received a Young Research Talents grant from the Research Council of Norway (Reducing Inequality Through Complementarities in Investments in Education and Health, 2018-2022) and she is the Project Manager of the RCN project Women in Economics Network from 2019-2022.

You can read more about Aline Bütikofer here