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Academic Undermatching of High-Achieving Minority Students: Evidence from Race-Neutral and Holistic Admissions Policies


  • Sandra E. Black
  • Kalena E. Cortes
  • Jane Arnold Lincove


College is a pathway to social mobility in the United States. Yet too often high-achieving students from low-income and minorities families fail to apply to selective postsecondary institutions. Our study examines the extent to which academic undermatching occurs among high-achieving minority students by analyzing the application choices of students who undergo two distinct admissions policies. We find that minority students eligible for automatic admissions and those who undergo holistic admissions are both less likely to apply to elite flagship universities than white students, despite being equally qualified based on high school performance. Instead, minorities often opt for lower tier universities.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra E. Black & Kalena E. Cortes & Jane Arnold Lincove, 2015. "Academic Undermatching of High-Achieving Minority Students: Evidence from Race-Neutral and Holistic Admissions Policies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 604-610, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:105:y:2015:i:5:p:604-10
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.p20151114

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    Cited by:

    1. Sandra E. Black & Kalena E. Cortes & Jane Arnold Lincove, 2020. "Apply Yourself: Racial and Ethnic Differences in College Application," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 15(2), pages 209-240, Spring.
    2. Maragkou, Konstantina, 2020. "Socio-economic inequality and academic match among post-compulsory education participants," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    3. Andrés Barrios Fernández, 2019. "Should I stay or should I go? Neighbors' effects on university enrollment," CEP Discussion Papers dp1653, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Delaney, Judith M. & Devereux, Paul J., 2020. "Choosing differently? College application behavior and the persistence of educational advantage," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    5. Campbell, Stuart & Macmillan, Lindsey & Murphy, Richard & Wyness, Gill, 2019. "Inequalities in student to course match: evidence from linked administrative data," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 103413, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Stuart Campbell & Lindsey Macmillan & Richard Murphy & Gill Wyness, 2020. "Matching in the Dark? Inequalities in student to degree match," CEPEO Working Paper Series 20-01, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities, UCL Institute of Education, revised Jan 2020.
    7. Wu, Binzhen & Zhong, Xiaohan, 2020. "Matching inequality and strategic behavior under the Boston mechanism: Evidence from China's college admissions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 1-21.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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