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Grade Inflation and Course Choice

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  • Richard Sabot
  • John Wakeman-Linn
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    Abstract

    A conflict exists between the incentives offered to students and the institutional goal of increased science and math education. Students make their course choices in response to a powerful set of incentives: grades. These incentives have been systematically distorted by the grade inflation of the past 25 years. As a consequence of inflation, many universities have split into high- and low-grading departments. Economics, along with Chemistry and Math, tends to be low-grading. Art, English, Philosophy, Psychology, and Political Science tend to be high-grading. This paper presents evidence from nine colleges and universities that grade inflation has led to a divergence among departments in grading policies. We then discuss the results of an econometric study we conducted at Williams College of the influence of grading policies on course choice. The impact that differences in grading policies across departments have on the distribution of enrollments was also estimated, and policy implications of the findings are discussed.

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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.5.1.159
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 5 (1991)
    Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
    Pages: 159-170

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:5:y:1991:i:1:p:159-70

    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.5.1.159
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    Cited by:
    1. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd Stinebrickner, 2013. "A Major in Science? Initial Beliefs and Final Outcomes for College Major and Dropout," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20134, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
    2. Paul M. Anglin & Ronald Meng, 2000. "Evidence on Grades and Grade Inflation at Ontario's Universities," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 26(3), pages 361-368, September.
    3. Ost, Ben, 2010. "The role of peers and grades in determining major persistence in the sciences," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 923-934, December.
    4. Mary R Hedges & Don Webber, 2012. "Using student evaluations to improve individual and department teaching qualities," Working Papers 20121205, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
    5. repec:fth:prinin:348 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Maria De Paola & Francesca Gioia, 2011. "Risk Aversion And Major Choice: Evidence From Italian Students," Working Papers 201107, Università della Calabria, Dipartimento di Economia, Statistica e Finanza (Ex Dipartimento di Economia e Statistica).
    7. Rask, Kevin & Tiefenthaler, Jill, 2008. "The role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 676-687, December.
    8. Rebecca Summary & William Weber, 2012. "Grade inflation or productivity growth? An analysis of changing grade distributions at a regional university," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 95-107, August.
    9. Kiridaran Kanagaretnam & Robert Mathieu & Alex Thevaranjan, 2003. "An economic analysis of the use of student evaluations: implications for universities," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(1), pages 1-13.
    10. Iris Franz, Wan-Ju, 2010. "Grade inflation under the threat of students' nuisance: Theory and evidence," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 411-422, June.
    11. Karen E. Dynan & Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1995. "The Underrepresentation of Women in Economics: A Study of Undergraduate Economics Students," NBER Working Papers 5299, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Krajc, Marian & Ortmann, Andreas, 2008. "Are the unskilled really that unaware? An alternative explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 724-738, November.
    13. Ewing, Andrew M., 2012. "Estimating the impact of relative expected grade on student evaluations of teachers," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 141-154.
    14. Wan-Ju Iris Franz, 2007. "Grade Inflation under the Threat of Students' Nuisance: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 070806, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
    15. Rask, Kevin, 2010. "Attrition in STEM fields at a liberal arts college: The importance of grades and pre-collegiate preferences," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 892-900, December.
    16. Manuel Bagues & Mauro Sylos Labini & Natalia Zinovyeva, 2008. "Differential Grading Standards and University Funding: Evidence from Italy," Working Papers 2008-07, FEDEA.
    17. Aysegül Sahin, 2004. "The incentive effects of higher education subsidies on student effort," Staff Reports 192, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    18. William R. Johnson & Sarah Turner, 2009. "Faculty without Students: Resource Allocation in Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 169-89, Spring.
    19. Langbein, Laura, 2008. "Management by results: Student evaluation of faculty teaching and the mis-measurement of performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 417-428, August.
    20. Kwang Soo Cheong, 2000. "Grade Inflation at the University of Hawaii-Manoa," Working Papers 200002, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.

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