IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Are University Admissions Academically Fair?

  • Debopam Bhattacharya


    (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

  • Shin Kanaya


    (Aarhus University and CREATES)

  • Margaret Stevens


    (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

High-profile universities often face public criticism for undermining academic merit and promoting social elitism through their admissions-process. In this paper, we develop an empirical test for whether access to selective universities is meritocratic. If so, then the academic potential of marginal candidates -- the admission-threshold -- would be equated across demographic groups. But these thresholds are difficult to identify when admission-decisions are based on more characteristics than observed by the analyst. We assume that applicants who are better-qualified on standard observable indicators should on average, but not necessarily with certainty, appear academically stronger to admission-tutors based on characteristics observable to them but not us. This assumption can be used to reveal information about the sign and magnitude of differences in admission thresholds across demographic groups which are robust to omitted characteristics, thus enabling one to test whether different demographic groups face different academic standards for admission. An application to admissions-data at a highly selective British university shows that males and private school applicants face significantly higher admission-thresholds, although application success-rates are equal across gender and school-type. Our methods are potentially useful for testing outcomebased fairness of other binary treatment decisions, where eventual outcomes are observed for those who were treated.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University in its series CREATES Research Papers with number 2014-06.

in new window

Length: 56
Date of creation: 02 Jul 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:aah:create:2014-06
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Roland Fryer & Glenn C. Loury & Tolga Yuret, 2003. "Color-Blind Affirmative Action," NBER Working Papers 10103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bhattacharya, Debopam & Dupas, Pascaline, 2012. "Inferring welfare maximizing treatment assignment under budget constraints," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 167(1), pages 168-196.
  3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Glenn C. Loury, 2005. "Affirmative Action and Its Mythology," NBER Working Papers 11464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Robert Allen, 2016. "Revising England's Social Tables Once Again," Economics Series Working Papers 146, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  5. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
  6. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, . ""Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence''," CARESS Working Papres 99-06, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  7. Qi Li & Jeffrey Scott Racine, 2006. "Nonparametric Econometrics: Theory and Practice," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 8355, 01-2013.
  8. Enno Mammen & Christoph Rothe & Melanie Schienle, 2010. "Nonparametric Regression with Nonparametrically Generated Covariates," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2010-059, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  9. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J. & Vytlacil, Edward, 2009. "Evaluating Marginal Policy Changes and the Average Effect of Treatment for Individuals at the Margin," IZA Discussion Papers 4324, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban M. Aucejo & Hanming Fang & Kenneth I. Spenner, 2009. "Does Affirmative Action Lead to Mismatch? A New Test and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 14885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kristensen, Dennis, 2009. "Uniform Convergence Rates Of Kernel Estimators With Heterogeneous Dependent Data," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(05), pages 1433-1445, October.
  12. Kate Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2009. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 163-177, February.
  13. Nikolay Gospodinov & Masayuki Hirukawa, 2008. "Nonparametric Estimation of Scalar Diffusion Processes of Interest Rates Using Asymmetric Kernels," Working Papers 08011, Concordia University, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2008.
  14. Manski, Charles F., 1975. "Maximum score estimation of the stochastic utility model of choice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 205-228, August.
  15. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 991-1013, September.
  16. Ahn, Hyungtaik & Powell, James L., 1993. "Semiparametric estimation of censored selection models with a nonparametric selection mechanism," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1-2), pages 3-29, July.
  17. Pagan,Adrian & Ullah,Aman, 1999. "Nonparametric Econometrics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521355643, November.
  18. Nicola Persico, 2009. "Racial Profiling? Detecting Bias Using Statistical Evidence," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 229-254, 05.
  19. Hansen, Bruce E., 2008. "Uniform Convergence Rates For Kernel Estimation With Dependent Data," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(03), pages 726-748, June.
  20. Greenstone, Michael & Gayer, Ted, 2009. "Quasi-experimental and experimental approaches to environmental economics," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 21-44, January.
  21. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2009. "The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 95-118, Fall.
  22. Amitabh Chandra & Douglas O. Staiger, 2010. "Identifying Provider Prejudice in Healthcare," NBER Working Papers 16382, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Anwar Shamena & Fang Hanming, 2012. "Testing for the Role of Prejudice in Emergency Departments Using Bounceback Rates," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(3), pages 1-49, December.
  24. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Statistical Treatment Rules for Heterogeneous Populations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(4), pages 1221-1246, 07.
  25. Rilstone, Paul, 1996. "Nonparametric Estimation of Models with Generated Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 37(2), pages 299-313, May.
  26. Bhattacharya, Debopam, 2009. "Inferring Optimal Peer Assignment From Experimental Data," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 104(486), pages 486-500.
  27. Debopam Bhattacharya, 2012. "Evaluating Treatment Protocols using Data Combination," Economics Series Working Papers 609, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  28. Hanming Fang & Andrea Moro, 2010. "Theories of Statistical Discrimination and Affirmative Action: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 15860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Bouezmarni, Taoufik & Scaillet, Olivier, 2005. "Consistency Of Asymmetric Kernel Density Estimators And Smoothed Histograms With Application To Income Data," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(02), pages 390-412, April.
  30. Scott E. Carrell & Bruce I. Sacerdote & James E. West, 2011. "From Natural Variation to Optimal Policy? The Lucas Critique Meets Peer Effects," NBER Working Papers 16865, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  31. Rothstein, J.M.Jesse M., 2004. "College performance predictions and the SAT," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 297-317.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aah:create:2014-06. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.