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The Missing "One-Offs": The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students

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  • Caroline M. Hoxby
  • Christopher Avery

Abstract

We show that the vast majority of very high-achieving students who are low-income do not apply to any selective college or university. This is despite the fact that selective institutions would often cost them less, owing to generous financial aid, than the resource-poor two-year and non-selective four-year institutions to which they actually apply. Moreover, high-achieving, low-income students who do apply to selective institutions are admitted and graduate at high rates. We demonstrate that these low-income students' application behavior differs greatly from that of their high-income counterparts who have similar achievement. The latter group generally follows the advice to apply to a few "par" colleges, a few "reach" colleges, and a couple of "safety" schools. We separate the low-income, high-achieving students into those whose application behavior is similar to that of their high-income counterparts ("achievement-typical" behavior) and those whose apply to no selective institutions ("income-typical" behavior). We show that income-typical students do not come from families or neighborhoods that are more disadvantaged than those of achievement-typical students. However, in contrast to the achievement-typical students, the income-typical students come from districts too small to support selective public high schools, are not in a critical mass of fellow high achievers, and are unlikely to encounter a teacher or schoolmate from an older cohort who attended a selective college. We demonstrate that widely-used policies–college admissions staff recruiting, college campus visits, college access programs–are likely to be ineffective with income-typical students, and we suggest policies that will be effective must depend less on geographic concentration of high achievers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18586.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18586

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  1. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 2005. "Would the elimination of affirmative action affect highly qualified minority applicants? Evidence from California and Texas," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 416-434, April.
  2. Jonathan Meer & Harvey S. Rosen, 2012. "Does Generosity Beget Generosity? Alumni Giving and Undergraduate Financial Aid," NBER Working Papers 17861, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  1. High school matching in New York City
    by Al Roth in Market Design on 2013-04-08 12:07:00
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Cited by:
  1. Corak, Miles, 2013. "Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility," IZA Discussion Papers 7520, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Cory Koedel & Peter Arcidiacono, 2012. "Race and College Success: Evidence from Missouri," Working Papers, Department of Economics, University of Missouri 1212, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 15 Jul 2013.
  3. Joshua D. Angrist & Sarah R. Cohodes & Susan M. Dynarski & Parag A. Pathak & Christopher R. Walters, 2013. "Stand and Deliver: Effects of Boston's Charter High School on College Preparation, Entry, and Choice," CESifo Working Paper Series 4396, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Sarena F. Goodman, 2013. "Learning from the test: raising selective college enrollment by providing information," Finance and Economics Discussion Series, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) 2013-69, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  5. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2013. "University Differences in the Graduation of Minorities in STEM Fields: Evidence from California," CEP Discussion Papers, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE dp1223, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Eleanor Wiske Dillon & Jeffrey Andrew Smith, 2013. "The Determinants of Mismatch Between Students and Colleges," NBER Working Papers 19286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jeffrey V. Butler, 2013. "Inequality and Relative Ability Beliefs," EIEF Working Papers Series 1305, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Mar 2013.
  8. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban Aucejo & V. Joseph Hotz, 2013. "University differences in the graduation of minorities in STEM fields: evidence from California," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 51564, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Justine S. Hastings & Christopher A. Neilson & Seth D. Zimmerman, 2013. "Are Some Degrees Worth More than Others? Evidence from college admission cutoffs in Chile," NBER Working Papers 19241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Eric Parsons, 2013. "The Icarus Syndrome: Why Do Some High Flyers Soar While Others Fall?," Working Papers, Department of Economics, University of Missouri 1308, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  11. Robert B. Archibald & David H. Feldman & Peter McHenry, 2014. "A Quality-Preserving Increase in Four-Year College Attendance: Evidence from NLS-72 and ELS:2002," Working Papers, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary 147, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  12. Goux, Dominique & Gurgand, Marc & Maurin, Eric, 2014. "Adjusting Your Dreams? The Effect of School and Peers on Dropout Behaviour," IZA Discussion Papers 7948, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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