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Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition

  • John Bound
  • Brad Hershbein
  • Bridget Terry Long

Gaining entrance to a four-year college or university, particularly a selective institution, has become increasingly competitive over the last several decades. We document this phenomenon and show how it has varied across different parts of the student ability distribution and across regions, with the most pronounced increases in competition being found among higher-ability students and in the Northeast. Additionally, we explore how the college preparatory behavior of high school seniors has changed in response to the growth in competition. We also discuss the theoretical implications of increased competition on longer-term measures of learning and achievement and attempt to test them empirically; the evidence and related literature, while limited, suggests little long-term benefit.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.23.4.119
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 119-46

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:23:y:2009:i:4:p:119-46
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.23.4.119
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  1. Courant, Paul N. & McPherson, Michael & Resch, Alexandra M., 2006. "The Public Role in Higher Education," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(2), pages 291-318, June.
  2. Dan Ariely & Uri Gneezy & George Loewenstein & Nina Mazar, 2005. "Large stakes and big mistakes," Working Papers 05-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  3. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  4. McDuff, DeForest, 2007. "Quality, tuition, and applications to in-state public colleges," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 433-449, August.
  5. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2005. "Earnings Functions, Rates of Return and Treatment Effects: The Mincer Equation and Beyond," NBER Working Papers 11544, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2000. "A fine is a price," Natural Field Experiments 00258, The Field Experiments Website.
  7. Robinson, Michael & Monks, James, 2005. "Making SAT scores optional in selective college admissions: a case study," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 393-405, August.
  8. Gordon C. Winston, 1999. "Subsidies, Hierarchy and Peers: The Awkward Economics of Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 13-36, Winter.
  9. John Bound & Brad Hershbein & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Playing the Admissions Game: Student Reactions to Increasing College Competition," NBER Working Papers 15272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Caroline M. Hoxby, 1997. "How the Changing Market Structure of U.S. Higher Education Explains College Tuition," NBER Working Papers 6323, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  12. John Bound & Sarah Turner, 2007. "Understanding the Increased Time to the Baccalaureate Degree," Discussion Papers 06-043, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  13. Winston, G.C., 2000. "Economic Stratification and Hierarchy Among U.S. Colleges and Universities," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-58, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  14. Kreps, David M, 1997. "Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 359-64, May.
  15. Caroline M. Hoxby & Bridget Terry, 1999. "Explaining Rising Income and wage Inequality Among the College Educated," NBER Working Papers 6873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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