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Intended college attendance: Evidence from an experiment on college returns and costs

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  • Bleemer, Zachary
  • Zafar, Basit

Abstract

We conduct an information experiment about college returns and costs embedded within a representative survey of US household heads. Baseline perceptions of college costs and benefits are substantially biased, with larger biases among lower-income and non-college households. Respondents are randomly exposed to objective information about average college “returns” or costs. We find a significant impact of the “returns” experiment, persisting in a follow-up survey two months later: intended college attendance expectations increase by about 0.2 of the standard deviation in the baseline likelihood, and gaps by household income or parents’ education decline by 20–30%. We find no impact of the cost information treatment. Further analysis supports the information’s salience, as opposed to information-based updating, as the main channel through which the returns intervention impacts intentions.

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  • Bleemer, Zachary & Zafar, Basit, 2018. "Intended college attendance: Evidence from an experiment on college returns and costs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 157(C), pages 184-211.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:157:y:2018:i:c:p:184-211
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2017.11.002
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    Cited by:

    1. Lergetporer, Philipp & Woessmann, Ludger, 2019. "The Political Economy of Higher Education Finance: How Information and Design Affect Public Preferences for Tuition," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 145, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    2. Ingar K. Haaland & Christopher Roth & Johannes Wohlfart, 2020. "Designing Information Provision Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 8406, CESifo.
    3. Rajeev Darolia, 2016. "An Experiment on Information Use in College Student Loan Decisions," Working Papers 16-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, revised 01 Jun 2016.
    4. Ganguli, Ina & Gaule, Patrick & Čugalj, Danijela Vuletić, 2020. "Biased Beliefs and Entry into Scientific Careers," IZA Discussion Papers 13475, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Ana Figueiredo, 2017. "Uncertainty in education: The role of communities and social learning," 2017 Meeting Papers 529, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Lergetporer, Philipp & Werner, Katharina & Woessmann, Ludger, 2018. "Does Ignorance of Economic Returns and Costs Explain the Educational Aspiration Gap? Evidence from Representative Survey Experiments," IZA Discussion Papers 11453, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Katharina Werner, 2019. "Der Einfluss von Informationen auf die öffentliche Meinung zur Bildung - Erkenntnisse aus repräsentativen Befragungsexperimenten," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 82.
    8. Elisabeth Grewenig & Philipp Lergetporer & Katharina Werner & Ludger Woessmann, 2019. "Incentives, search engines, and the elicitation of subjective beliefs: evidence from representative online survey experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 7556, CESifo.
    9. Johannes S. Kunz & Kevin E. Staub, 2016. "Subjective completion beliefs and the demand for post-secondary education," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0120, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    10. Estelle Herbaut & Koen Geven, 2019. "What Works to Reduce Inequalities in Higher Education? A Systematic Review of the (Quasi-)Experimental Literature on Outreach and Financial Aid," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/527ht1a96e8, Sciences Po.
    11. Haaland, Ingar & Roth, Christopher & Wohlfart. Johannes, 2020. "Designing Information Provision Experiments," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1275, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    12. Frauke H. Peter & C. Katharina Spieß & Vaishali Zambre, 2018. "Informing Students about College: An Efficient Way to Decrease the Socio-Economic Gap in Enrollment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1770, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    13. Feng, Hongli & Wang, Tong & Hennessy, David A., 2017. "Perception Biases and Land Use Decisions," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258571, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    14. Jesper Akesson & Sam Ashworth-Hayes & Robert Hahn & Robert D. Metcalfe & Itzhak Rasooly, 2020. "Fatalism, Beliefs, and Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 27245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Phillip B. Levine & Jennifer Ma & Lauren C. Russell, 2020. "Do College Applicants Respond to Changes in Sticker Prices Even When They Don't Matter?," NBER Working Papers 26910, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2017. "Socio-Economic Gaps in University Enrollment: The Role of Perceived Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Returns," Working Papers 2017-080, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    17. Ana Figueiredo, 2018. "Information Frictions in Education and Inequality," 2018 Meeting Papers 804, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    18. Ingar Haaland & Christopher Roth & Johannes Wohlfart, 2020. "Designing Information Provision Experiments," CEBI working paper series 20-20, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. The Center for Economic Behavior and Inequality (CEBI).
    19. Bleemer, Zachary, 2016. "Role Model Effects Of Female Stem Teachers And Doctors On Early 20th Century University Enrollment In California," University of California at Berkeley, Center for Studies in Higher Education qt8nq0z4wb, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley.
    20. Pablo Brañas-Garza; Riccardo Ciacci; Ericka Rascón Ramírez, 2020. "Order Matters: Eliciting Maternal Beliefs on Educational Choices," Economics Working Papers ECO 2020/01, European University Institute.
    21. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2017. "Socio-Economic Gaps in University Enrollment: The Role of Perceived Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Returns," Working Papers 2017-080, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    College enrollment; College returns and costs; Information; Subjective expectations;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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