Lukas Kiessling


I am a Senior Research Fellow (Post-Doc) at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods (MPI) working on topics in applied microeconomics and behavioral economics. In particular, I focus on peer effects and human capital formation. I received my Ph.D. from the Bonn Graduate School of Economics (BGSE) at the University of Bonn in 2020.

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The Long-run Effects of Peers on Mental Health

with Jonathan Norris

This paper studies how peers in school affect students’ mental health. Guided by a theoretical framework, we find that increasing students’ relative ranks in their cohorts by one standard deviation improves their mental health by 6% of a standard deviation conditional on own ability. These effects are more pronounced for low-ability students, persistent for at least 14 years, and carry over to economic long-run outcomes. Moreover, we document a pronounced asymmetry: Students who receive negative rather than positive shocks react more strongly. Our findings therefore provide evidence on how the school environment can have long-lasting consequences for individuals’ well-being.

Current version (September 2020)
Media coverage: Economics Observatory

Self-selection of Peers and Performance

with Jonas Radbruch and Sebastian Schaube

In many natural environments, carefully chosen peers influence individual behavior and performance. Using a framed field experiment, we examine how self-selected peers affect performance in contrast to randomly assigned ones. We find that self-selection improves performance by 16-19% of a standard deviation relative to randomly assigned peers. Our results document peer effects in multiple characteristics and show that self-selection changes these characteristics. However, a decomposition reveals that variations in the peer composition contribute only little to the estimated average treatment effects. Rather, we find that self-selection has a direct effect on performance.

Current version (June 2020)
(this version supersedes IZA Discussion Paper 11365 "The Impact of Self-Selection on Performance")
Media coverage: IZA Newsroom (English), IZA Newsroom (German)

Determinants of Peer Selection

with Jonas Radbruch and Sebastian Schaube

Peers influence behavior in many domains. We study whom individuals choose as peers and explore individual determinants of peer selection. Using data from a framed field experiment at secondary schools, we analyze how peer choices depend on relative performance, personality differences, and the presence of friendship ties. Our results document systematic patterns of peer choice: friendship is the most important determinant, albeit not the only one. Individuals exhibit homophily in personality and, on average, prefer similar peers who perform slightly better. Our results help to rationalize models of differential and nonlinear peer effects and to understand reference group formation.

Current version (April 2020)

How Do Parents Perceive the Returns to Parenting Styles and Neighborhoods?

This paper studies parental beliefs about the returns to two factors affecting the development and long-term outcomes of children: (i) parenting styles defined by the extent of warmth and control parents employ in raising children, and (ii) neighborhood quality. Based on a representative sample of 2,119 parents in the United States, I show that parents perceive large returns to the warmth dimension of parenting as well as neighborhood quality, and document that parenting is perceived to compensate for the lack of a good environment. Mothers expect larger returns than fathers, but there is no socioeconomic gradient in perceived returns despite a high degree of heterogeneity. Furthermore, I introduce a measurement error correction by leveraging beliefs measured in two different domains, and show that parents' perceived returns relate to their actual parenting styles. My results suggest that parental beliefs are an important determinant of parental decision-making, but cannot explain socioeconomic differences in parenting.

Current version (June 2020)

Gender Differences in Wage Expectations: Sorting, Children, and Negotiation Styles

with Pia Pinger, Philipp Seegers, and Jan Bergerhoff

This paper presents evidence from a large-scale study on gender differences in expected wages before labor market entry. Based on data for over 15,000 students, we document a significant and large gender gap in wage expectations that closely resembles actual wage differences, prevails across subgroups, and along the entire distribution. To understand the underlying causes and determinants, we relate expected wages to sorting into majors, industries, and occupations, child-rearing plans, perceived and actual ability, personality, perceived discrimination, and negotiation styles. Our findings indicate that sorting and negotiation styles affect the gender gap in wage expectations much more than prospective child-related labor force interruptions. Given the importance of wage expectations for labor market decisions, household bargaining, and wage setting, our results provide an explanation for persistent gender inequalities.

Current version (August 2019)
Media coverage: Süddeutsche Zeitung (German), Handelsblatt (German), IZA Newsroom (English), IZA Newsroom (German), BizEd Magazine

Parental Paternalism

with Shyamal Chowdhury, Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch, and Matthias Sutter

We study whether and how parents interfere paternalistically in their children’s intertemporal decision-making, which is important for many lifetime outcomes. Based on experimental data from over 2,000 members of 610 families, we find that parents anticipate their children’s present bias and aim to mitigate it. More than half of all parents forego money to override their children’s choices with implications for the formation and intergenerational transmission of patience: Parents willing to interfere have more patient children, but they do not transmit their own time preferences to their children. Rather, the transmission is driven by non-interfering parents.

Draft available soon

Curriculum Vitae

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Contact Information

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse 10
53113 Bonn

Phone: +49 (0)228-91416-195