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Persistence and Academic Success in University


  • Martin D. Dooley
  • A. Abigail Payne
  • A. Leslie Robb


We use a unique set of linked administrative data to explore the determinants of persistence and academic success in university. The explanatory power of high school grades greatly dominates that of other variables such as university program, gender, and neighbourhood and high school characteristics. Indeed, characteristics such as average neighbourhood income or high school standardized test scores have weak links with suc-cess in university. These results raise challenging questions of what lies behind the variation in high school grades and what mix of individual, home, and school inputs ultimately accounts for university outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin D. Dooley & A. Abigail Payne & A. Leslie Robb, 2012. "Persistence and Academic Success in University," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 38(3), pages 315-339, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpp:issued:v:38:y:2012:i:3:p:315-339
    DOI: 10.3138/cpp.38.3.315

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Boys, retention, and multiple regression
      by Nick Rowe in Worthwhile Canadian Initiative on 2013-03-14 19:11:02
    2. Individual characteristics are more important for academic success in university
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-10-28 19:14:00


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    Cited by:

    1. A. Abigail Payne & Justin Smith, 2020. "Big Fish, Small Pond: The Effect of Rank at Entry on Postsecondary Outcomes," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(4), pages 1475-1509, April.
    2. Martin D. Dooley & A. Abigail Payne & A. Leslie Robb, 2012. "The impact of cost on the choice of university: evidence from Ontario," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 45(2), pages 755-783, May.
    3. Meyer, Tobias & Thomsen, Stephan, 2014. "Are 12 Years of Schooling Sufficient for Preparation for Tertiary Education? Evidence from the Reform of Secondary School Duration in Germany," VfS Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100305, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Alejandro Abarca & Rolando Leiva & Juan Robalino & Milagro Saborio-Rodriguez, 2016. "Diferencias en la permanencia y el desempeño en la educación superior entre estudiantes provenientes de colegios públicas y privadas," Working Papers 201603, Universidad de Costa Rica, revised Jun 2016.
    5. Stephen E. Childs & Ross Finnie & Felice Martinello, 2017. "Postsecondary Student Persistence and Pathways: Evidence From the YITS-A in Canada," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(3), pages 270-294, May.
    6. Silva, Pedro Luís & Sá, Carla & Biscaia, Ricardo & Teixeira, Pedro N., 2022. "High School and Exam Scores: Does Their Predictive Validity for Academic Performance Vary with Programme Selectivity?," IZA Discussion Papers 15350, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Silva, Pedro Luís, 2022. "Specialists or All-Rounders: How Best to Select University Students?," IZA Discussion Papers 15271, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Beattie, Graham & Laliberté, Jean-William P. & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2018. "Thrivers and divers: Using non-academic measures to predict college success and failure," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 170-182.
    9. Zwick, Thomas, 2012. "Determinants of individual academic achievement: Group selectivity effects have many dimensions," ZEW Discussion Papers 12-081, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    10. Pavlos Nikolaidis & Maizatul Ismail & Liyana Shuib & Shakir Khan & Gaurav Dhiman, 2022. "Predicting Student Attrition in Higher Education through the Determinants of Learning Progress: A Structural Equation Modelling Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(20), pages 1-19, October.
    11. Loris P Fagioli & Rachel Baker & Gabe Avakian Orona, 2020. "The Role of Non-cognitive Variables in Identifying Community College Students in Need of Targeted Supports," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 61(6), pages 725-763, September.
    12. Felice Martinello, 2015. "Course Withdrawal Dates, Tuition Refunds, and Student Persistence in University Programs," Working Papers 1501, Brock University, Department of Economics, revised Feb 2015.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions


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