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Information heterogeneity and intended college enrollment

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  • Bleemer, Zachary
  • Zafar, Basit

    () (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Abstract

Despite a robust college premium, college attendance rates in the United States have remained stagnant and exhibit a substantial socioeconomic gradient. We focus on information gaps— specifically, incomplete information about college benefits and costs—as a potential explanation for these patterns. In a nationally representative survey of U.S. household heads, we show that perceptions of college costs and benefits are severely and systematically biased: 74 percent of our respondents underestimate the true benefits of college (average earnings of a college graduate relative to a non-college worker in the population), while 77 percent report public college costs that exceed actual sticker costs. There is substantial heterogeneity in beliefs, with larger biases for the more disadvantaged groups, lower-income and non-college households. We show that these biases are problematic since they (indirectly) impact the respondents’ reported intended likelihood of their (pre-college-age) child attending college. We simulate an “information intervention,” and find that were individuals to be provided with the correct population distribution of college costs and returns, the intended child’s college attendance would increase significantly, by about 0.2 of the standard deviation in the baseline intended likelihood. Importantly, as a result of the simulated intervention, gaps in college attendance by household income or parents’ education persist but decline by 30 to 50 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Bleemer, Zachary & Zafar, Basit, 2014. "Information heterogeneity and intended college enrollment," Staff Reports 685, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:685
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    Cited by:

    1. Lergetporer, Philipp & Werner, Katharina & Woessmann, Ludger, 2018. "Does Ignorance of Economic Returns and Costs Explain the Educational Aspiration Gap? Evidence From Representative Survey Experiments," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 91, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Grewenig, Elisabeth & Lergetporer, Philipp & Werner, Katharina & Woessmann, Ludger, 2019. "Incentives, Search Engines, and the Elicitation of Subjective Beliefs: Evidence from Representative Online Survey Experiments," IZA Discussion Papers 12217, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Ana Figueiredo, 2018. "Information Frictions in Education and Inequality," 2018 Meeting Papers 804, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Darolia, Rajeev, 2016. "An Experiment on Information Use in College Student Loan Decisions," Working Papers 16-18, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    7. Ana Figueiredo, 2017. "Uncertainty in education: The role of communities and social learning," 2017 Meeting Papers 529, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. repec:ces:ifobei:82 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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).
    12. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2017. "Socio-Economic Gaps in University Enrollment: The Role of Perceived Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Returns," CESifo Working Paper Series 6756, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2017. "Socio-Economic Gaps in University Enrollment: The Role of Perceived Pecuniary and Non-Pecuniary Returns," CESifo Working Paper Series 6756, CESifo Group Munich.
    14. 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.
    15. 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).

    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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