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Are University Admissions Academically Fair?

Author

Listed:
  • Debopam Bhattacharya

    () (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

  • Shin Kanaya

    () (Aarhus University and CREATES)

  • Margaret Stevens

    () (Department of Economics, University of Oxford)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Debopam Bhattacharya & Shin Kanaya & Margaret Stevens, 2014. "Are University Admissions Academically Fair?," CREATES Research Papers 2014-06, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
  • Handle: RePEc:aah:create:2014-06
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sevilla, Almudena & Borra, Cristina, 2015. "Parental Time Investments in Children: The Role of Competition for University Places in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 9168, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bhattacharya, Debopam, 2013. "Evaluating treatment protocols using data combination," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 173(2), pages 160-174.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    University admissions; affirmative action; economic efficiency; marginal admit; unobserved heterogeneity; threshold-crossing model; conditional stochastic dominance; partial identification;

    JEL classification:

    • C13 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Estimation: General
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination

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