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Are University Admissions Academically Fair?

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  • Debopam Bhattacharya

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

  • Shin Kanaya

    ()
    (Aarhus University and CREATES)

  • Margaret Stevens

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

Abstract

High-profile universities often face public criticism for undermining academic merit and promoting social elitism through their admissions-process. In this paper, we develop an empirical test for whether access to selective universities is meritocratic. If so, then the academic potential of marginal candidates -- the admission-threshold -- would be equated across demographic groups. But these thresholds are difficult to identify when admission-decisions are based on more characteristics than observed by the analyst. We assume that applicants who are better-qualified on standard observable indicators should on average, but not necessarily with certainty, appear academically stronger to admission-tutors based on characteristics observable to them but not us. This assumption can be used to reveal information about the sign and magnitude of differences in admission thresholds across demographic groups which are robust to omitted characteristics, thus enabling one to test whether different demographic groups face different academic standards for admission. An application to admissions-data at a highly selective British university shows that males and private school applicants face significantly higher admission-thresholds, although application success-rates are equal across gender and school-type. Our methods are potentially useful for testing outcomebased fairness of other binary treatment decisions, where eventual outcomes are observed for those who were treated.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus in its series CREATES Research Papers with number 2014-06.

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Length: 56
Date of creation: 02 Jul 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:aah:create:2014-06

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Web page: http://www.econ.au.dk/afn/

Related research

Keywords: University admissions; affirmative action; economic efficiency; marginal admit; unobserved heterogeneity; threshold-crossing model; conditional stochastic dominance; partial identification;

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Cited by:
  1. Bhattacharya, Debopam, 2013. "Evaluating treatment protocols using data combination," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 173(2), pages 160-174.

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